Ground-State Destabilization by Active-Site Hydrophobicity Controls the Selectivity of a Cofactor- Free Decarboxylase

04 November 2020, Version 3
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Bacterial arylmalonate decarboxylase (AMDase) and evolved variants have become a valuable tool with which to access both enantiomers of a broad range of chiral arylaliphatic acids with high optical purity. Yet, the molecular principles responsible for the substrate scope, activity and selectivity of this enzyme are only poorly understood to this day, greatly hampering the predictability and design of improved enzyme variants for specific applications. In this work, empirical valence bond and metadynamics simulations were performed on wild-type AMDase and variants thereof, to obtain a better understanding of the underlying molecular processes determining reaction outcome. Our results clearly reproduce the experimentally observed substrate scope, and support a mechanism driven by ground-state destabilization of the carboxylate group being cleaved by the enzyme. In addition, our results indicate that, in the case of the non-converted or poorly-converted substrates studied in this work, increased solvent exposure of the active site upon binding of these substrates can disturb the vulnerable network of interactions responsible for facilitating the AMDase-catalyzed cleavage of CO2. Finally, our results indicate a switch from preferential cleavage of the pro-(R) to the pro-(S) carboxylate group in the CLG-IPL variant of AMDase for all substrates studied. This appears to be due to the emergence of a new hydrophobic pocket generated by the insertion of the six amino acid substitutions, into which the pro-(S) carboxylate binds. Our results allow insight into the tight interaction network determining AMDase selectivity, which in turn provides guidance for the identification of target residues for future enzyme engineering.


arylmalonate decarboxylase
enzyme selectivity
ground-state destabilization
empirical valence bond

Supplementary materials

Kamerlin SupportingInformation Revised


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.