Coupling Protein Dynamics with Proton Transport in Human Carbonic Anhydrase II

The role of protein dynamics in enzyme catalysis is one of the most highly debated topics in enzymology. The main controversy centers around what may be defined as functionally significant conformational fluctuations and how, if at all, these fluctuations couple to enzyme catalyzed events. To shed light on this debate, the conformational dynamics along the transition path surmounting the highest free energy barrier have been herein investigated for the rate limiting proton transport event in human carbonic anhydrase (HCA) II. Special attention has been placed on whether the motion of an excess proton is correlated with fluctuations in the surrounding protein and solvent matrix, which may be rare on the picosecond and subpicosecond time scales of molecular motions. It is found that several active site residues, which do not directly participate in the proton transport event, have a significant impact on the dynamics of the excess proton. These secondary participants are shown to strongly influence the active site environment, resulting in the creation of water clusters that are conducive to fast, moderately slow, or slow proton transport events. The identification and characterization of these secondary participants illuminates the role of protein dynamics in the catalytic efficiency of HCA II.