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"Dynamic Energy Landscape" of enzyme in Catalysis

Complex protein molecules called enzymes catalyze specific biochemical reactions in cells. The traditional theory is that dynamic fluctuations//protein conformation or structure play a major role in enzyme catalysis. However, recent findings reveal that it is the "dynamic energy landscape" of the enzyme that directs it to a specific pathway that reduces the number and dimension of the energetic barriers to these catalytic changes. The study of the structure of the excited-state of protein may prove useful for drug design.

"There is a growing awareness that the inherent motions of proteins are essential to their functions," said Peter Wright, who is chair of the Scripps Research Department of Molecular Biology and a member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at Scripps Research. "The importance of this study is that it reveals how dynamic structural fluctuations channel an enzyme through its reaction cycle-the thermal motions of the protein are harnessed to perform its biological function, in this case, catalysis. Knowledge of the excited-state conformations of proteins may offer new opportunities for drug design."

The researchers used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to detect and characterize higher energy structural sub-states (excited states) of E. coli dihydrofolate reductase, which has been used extensively as a model enzyme for investigating the relations between structure, dynamics, and function in proteins. The researchers found that, at each stage in the catalytic cycle, the excited-state conformations resembled the ground-state structures of both the preceding and the following intermediates. This means that the dynamic fluctuations between the ground state and the excited state were "priming" the enzyme to take up the conformation of the adjacent intermediate state, facilitating the progress of catalysis by aiding the movement of ligands (molecules that bind to one chemical entity to form a larger complex) on and off the enzym
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