Transition State Analysis of Enolpyruvylshikimate 3-Phosphate (EPSP) Synthase (AroA)-Catalyzed EPSP Hydrolysis
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Proton transfer to carbon atoms is a significant catalytic challenge because of the large intrinsic energetic barrier and the frequently unfavorable thermodynamics. The main catalytic challenge for enolpyruvylshikimate 3-phosphate synthase (EPSP synthase, AroA) is protonating the methylene carbon atom of phosphoenolpyruvate, or EPSP, in the reverse reaction. We performed transition state analysis using kinetic isotope effects (KIEs) on AroA-catalyzed EPSP hydrolysis, which also begins with a methylene carbon (C3) protonation, as an analog of AroA's reverse reaction. As part of this analysis, an inorganic phosphate scavenging system was developed to remove phosphate which, though present in microscopic amounts in solution, is ubiquitous. The reaction was stepwise, with irreversible C3 protonation to form an EPSP cation intermediate; that is, an AH(‡)*AN mechanism. The large experimental 3-(14)C KIE, 1.032 ± 0.005, indicated strong coupling of C3 with the motion of the transferring proton. Calculated 3-(14)C KIEs for computational transition state models revealed that the transition state occurs early during C3-H(+) bond formation, with a C3-H(+) bond order of ≈0.24. The observed solvent deuterium KIE, 0.97 ± 0.04, was the lowest observed to date for this type of reaction, but consistent with a very early transition state. The large 2-(14)C KIE reflected an "electrostatic sandwich" formed by Asp313 and Glu341 to stabilize the positive charge at C2. In shifting the transition state earlier than the acid-catalyzed reaction, AroA effected a large Hammond shift, indicating that a significant part of AroA's catalytic strategy is to stabilize the positive charge in the EPSP cation. A computational model containing all the charged amino acid residues in the AroA active site close to the reactive center showed a similar Hammond shift relative to the small transition state models.