Prediction of reduction potentials of copper proteins with continuum electrostatics and density functional theory

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    Blue copper proteins, such as azurin, show dramatic changes in Cu2+/Cu+ reduction potential upon mutation over the full physiological range. Hence they have important functions in electron transfer and oxidation chemistry and may have potential in biotechnology. The details of what determines these reduction potential changes upon mutation are still unclear. Moreover, it has been difficult to model and predict the reduction potential of azurin mutants and currently no unique procedure or workflow pattern exists. Furthermore, high-level computational methods can be accurate but are too time consuming for practical use. In this work a novel approach for calculating reduction potentials of azurin mutants is shown, based on a combination of continuum electrostatics, density functional theory and empirical hydrophobicity factors. Our method accurately reproduces experimental reduction potential changes of 30 mutants with respect to wildtype within experimental error and highlights the factors contributing to the reduction potential change. Finally, reduction potentials are predicted for a series of 124 new mutants that have not been investigated experimentally yet. Several mutants are identified that are located well over 10Å from the copper center that change the reduction potential by more than 85mV. The work shows that secondary coordination sphere mutations mostly lead to long-range electrostatic changes and hence can be modeled accurately with continuum electrostatics.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalChemistry: A European Journal
    Early online date21 Sep 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2017


    • copper
    • azurin
    • redox
    • protein electrostatics
    • Density functional theory


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