Consideration of the pH-dependent inhibition of dihydrofolate reductase by methotrexate

William R. Cannon, Barbara J. Garrison, Stephen J. Benkovic

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Poisson Bultzmann calculations were used to determine the pK(a) of protein functional groups in the unliganded dihydrofolate reductase enzyme, and the pK(a) of protein and ligand groups in methotrexate-enzyme complexes. The results reported here are in conflict with two fundamental tenets of dihydrofolate reductase inhibition by methotrexate: (1) Asp27 is not expected to be protonated near pH 6.5 in the apoenzyme as previously proposed based on fitting of empirical equations to binding data, and (2) the calculated pK(a) for the pteridine N1 of the inhibitor while bound to the protein is significantly lower than that estimated for this group from interpretation of NMR data (> 10). In fact, the electrostatic calculations and complementary quantum chemical calculations indicate that Asp27 is likely protonated when methotrexate is bound, resulting in a neutral dipoledipole interaction rather than a salt-bridge between the enzyme and the inhibitor. Reasons far this discrepancy with the experimental data are discussed. Furthermore, His45 and Glu17 in the Escherichia coli enzyme are proposed to be in part responsible for the pH dependence of the conformational degeneracy in the inhibitor-enzyme complex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)656-668
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 29 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology


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