Theoretical study on the mechanism of the oxygen activation process in cysteine dioxygenase enzymes

Devesh Kumar, Walter Thiel, Sam P. De Visser

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    Cysteine dioxygenase (CDO) is a vital enzyme for human health involved in the biodegradation of toxic cysteine and thereby regulation of the cysteine concentration in the body. The enzyme belongs to the group of nonheme iron dioxygenases and utilizes molecular oxygen to transfer two oxygen atoms to cysteinate to form cysteine sulfinic acid products. The mechanism for this reaction is currently disputed, with crystallographic studies implicating a persulfenate intermediate in the catalytic cycle. To resolve the dispute we have performed quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) calculations on substrate activation by CDO enzymes using an enzyme monomer and a large QM active region. We find a stepwise mechanism, whereby the distal oxygen atom of the iron(II)-superoxo complex attacks the sulfur atom of cysteinate to form a ring structure, followed by dioxygen bond breaking and the formation of a sulfoxide bound to an iron(IV)-oxo complex. A sulfoxide rotation precedes the second oxygen atom transfer to the substrate to give cysteine sulfinic acid products. The reaction takes place on several low-lying spin-state surfaces via multistate reactivity patterns. It starts in the singlet ground state of the iron(II)-superoxo reactant and then proceeds mainly on the quintet and triplet surfaces. The initial and rate-determining attack of the superoxo group on the cysteinate sulfur atom involves a spin-state crossing from singlet to quintet. We have also investigated an alternative mechanism via a persulfenate intermediate, with a realignment of hydrogen bonding interactions in the substrate binding pocket. However, this alternative mechanism of proximal oxygen atom attack on the sulfur atom of cysteinate is computed to be a high-energy pathway, and therefore, the persulfenate intermediate is unlikely to participate in the catalytic cycle of CDO enzymes. © 2011 American Chemical Society.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3869-3882
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2011


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