Hydrolysis of Phosphotriesters: A Theoretical Analysis of the Enzymatic and Solution Mechanisms



A theoretical study on the alkaline hydrolysis of paraoxon, one of the most popular organophosphorus pesticides, in aqueous solution and in the active site of Pseudomonas diminuta phosphotriesterase (PTE) is presented. Simulations by means of hybrid quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) potentials show that the hydrolysis of paraoxon takes place through an ANDN or associative mechanism both in solution and in the active site of PTE. The results correctly reproduce the magnitude of the activation free energies and can be used to rationalize the observed kinetic isotope effects (KIEs) for the hydrolysis of paraoxon in both media. Enzymatic hydrolysis of O,O-diethyl p-chlorophenyl phosphate, a phosphotriester having a leaving group with higher pKa than paraoxon, was also simulated. Hydrolysis of this phosphotriester by PTE follows a AN+DN mechanism with a pentacoordinate intermediate. Moreover, the leaving group of this new substrate coordinates to one of the zinc ions of the bimetallic active site in order to stabilize the large negative charge developed on the oxygen atom of the leaving group when the P[BOND]O bond is broken in the products state. To accommodate this new ligand in the coordination shell, carbamylated Lys169 must be displaced from one zinc ion to the other, which in turn affects the acidity of Asp301, a residue originally bound to the second zinc ion. This ability to displace some of the ligands of the coordination shell of the zinc centers would explain the promiscuity of this enzyme, which is capable of catalyzing hydrolysis of different substrate by means of different mechanisms.