Dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) maintains the intracellular pool of tetrahydrofolate through catalysis of hydrogen transfer from reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide to 7,8-dihydrofolate. We report results for pre-steady-state kinetic studies of the temperature dependence of the rates and the hydrogen/deuterium-kinetic isotope effects for the reactions catalysed by the enzymes from the mesophilic Escherichia coli and the hyperthermophilic Thermatoga maritima. We propose an evolutionary pattern in which catalysis progressed from a relatively rigid active site structure in the ancient thermophilic DHFR to a more flexible and kinetically more efficient structure in E. coli that actively promotes hydrogen transfer at physiological pH by modulating the tunnelling distance. The E. coli enzyme appeared relatively robust, in that kinetically severely compromised mutants still actively propagated the reaction. The reduced hydrogen transfer rates of the extensively studied Gly121Val mutant of DHFR from E. coli were most likely due to sterically unfavourable long-range effects from the introduction of the bulky isopropyl group.
One contribution of 16 to a Discussion Meeting Issue ‘Quantum catalysis in enzymes—beyond the transition state theory paradigm’.
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