Modeling the Role of a Flexible Loop and Active Site Side Chains in Hydride Transfer Catalyzed by Glycerol-3-phosphate Dehydrogenase

Anil R. Mhashal, Adrian Romero-Rivera, Lisa S. Mydy, Judith R. Cristobal, Andrew M. Gulick, John P. Richard, Shina C.L. Kamerlin

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13 Scopus citations


Glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase is a biomedically important enzyme that plays a crucial role in lipid biosynthesis. It is activated by a ligand-gated conformational change that is necessary for the enzyme to reach a catalytically competent conformation capable of efficient transition-state stabilization. While the human form (hlGPDH) has been the subject of extensive structural and biochemical studies, corresponding computational studies to support and extend experimental observations have been lacking. We perform here detailed empirical valence bond and Hamiltonian replica exchange molecular dynamics simulations of wild-type hlGPDH and its variants, as well as providing a crystal structure of the binary hlGPDH·NAD R269A variant where the enzyme is present in the open conformation. We estimated the activation free energies for the hydride transfer reaction in wild-type and substituted hlGPDH and investigated the effect of mutations on catalysis from a detailed structural study. In particular, the K120A and R269A variants increase both the volume and solvent exposure of the active site, with concomitant loss of catalytic activity. In addition, the R269 side chain interacts with both the Q295 side chain on the catalytic loop, and the substrate phosphodianion. Our structural data and simulations illustrate the critical role of this side chain in facilitating the closure of hlGPDH into a catalytically competent conformation, through modulating the flexibility of a key catalytic loop (292-LNGQKL-297). This, in turn, rationalizes a tremendous 41,000 fold decrease experimentally in the turnover number, kcat, upon truncating this residue, as loop closure is essential for both correct positioning of key catalytic residues in the active site, as well as sequestering the active site from the solvent. Taken together, our data highlight the importance of this ligand-gated conformational change in catalysis, a feature that can be exploited both for protein engineering and for the design of llosteric inhibitors targeting this biomedically important enzyme.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11253-11267
Number of pages15
JournalACS Catalysis
Issue number19
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 American Chemical Society.


  • Hamiltonian replica exchange
  • empirical valence bond
  • glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase
  • loop dynamics
  • transition state stabilization


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