Use of Broken-Symmetry Density Functional Theory To Characterize the IspH Oxidized State: Implications for IspH Mechanism and Inhibition

With current therapies becoming less efficacious due to increased drug resistance, new inhibitors of both bacterial and malarial targets are desperately needed. The recently discovered methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway for isoprenoid synthesis provides novel targets for the development of such drugs. Particular attention has focused on the IspH protein, the final enzyme in the MEP pathway, which uses its [4Fe–4S] cluster to catalyze the formation of the isoprenoid precursors IPP and DMAPP from HMBPP. IspH catalysis is achieved via a 2<i>e</i><sup>–</sup>/2H<sup>+</sup> reductive dehydroxylation of HMBPP; the mechanism by which catalysis is achieved, however, is highly controversial. The work presented herein provides the first step in assessing different routes to catalysis by using computational methods. By performing broken-symmetry density functional theory (BS–DFT) calculations that employ both the conductor-like screening solvation model (DFT/COSMO) and a finite-difference Poisson–Boltzmann self-consistent reaction field methodology (DFT/SCRF), we evaluate geometries, energies, and Mössbauer signatures of the different protonation states that may exist in the oxidized state of the IspH catalytic cycle. From DFT/SCRF computations performed on the oxidized state, we find a state where the substrate, HMBPP, coordinates the apical iron in the [4Fe–4S] cluster as an alcohol group (ROH) to be one of two, isoenergetic, lowest-energy states. In this state, the HMBPP pyrophosphate moiety and an adjacent glutamate residue (E126) are both fully deprotonated, making the active site highly anionic. Our findings that this low-energy state also matches the experimental geometry of the active site and that its computed isomer shifts agree with experiment validate the use of the DFT/SCRF method to assess relative energies along the IspH reaction pathway. Additional studies of IspH catalytic intermediates are currently being pursued.