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Keywords:

  • active site;
  • competitive inhibition;
  • enzymes;
  • non-competitive inhibition;
  • reaction mechanism

Classical enzymology has been used for generations to understand the interactions of inhibitors with their enzyme targets. Enzymology tools enabled prediction of the biological impact of inhibitors as well as the development of novel, more potent, ones. Experiments designed to examine the competition between the tested inhibitor and the enzyme substrate(s) are the tool of choice to identify inhibitors that bind in the active site. Competition between an inhibitor and a substrate is considered a strong evidence for binding of the inhibitor in the active site, while the lack of competition suggests binding to an alternative site. Nevertheless, exceptions to this notion do exist. Active site–binding inhibitors can display non-competitive inhibition patterns. This unusual behavior has been observed with enzymes utilizing an exosite for substrate binding, isomechanism enzymes, enzymes with multiple substrates and/or products and two-step binding inhibitors. In many of these cases, the mechanisms underlying the lack of competition between the substrate and the inhibitor are well understood. Tools like alternative substrates, testing the enzyme reaction in the reverse direction and monitoring inhibition time dependence can be applied to enable distinction between ‘badly behaving’ active site binders and true exosite inhibitors.