Dissertation: Computational Protein Evolution: Modeling the Selectivity and Promiscuity of Engineered Enzymes

  • Date:
  • Location: Biomedicinskt centrum, BMC C4:301, Husarg 3 and via Zoom, meeting ID: 679 5058 7902
  • Doctoral student: Respondent: Klaudia Szeler
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Institutionen för kemi-BMC
  • Contact person: Mikael Widersten
  • Phone: 018-471 4992
  • Disputation

Opponent: Prof. Maria Ramos, University of Porto, Portugal

The dissertation will be held in English.


Enzymes are biological catalysts that significantly increase the rate of all biochemical reactions that take place within cells and are essential to maintain life. Many questions regarding their function remain unknown. Experimental techniques, such as kinetic measurements, spectroscopy, and site-directed mutagenesis, can provide relevant information about enzyme structure, key residues, active site conformations, and kinetics. However, they struggle to provide a full picture of enzyme catalysis. Combining experiments with computational techniques gives the possibility to generate a complete explanation with atomistic resolution. Computational modeling offers an incredibly robust toolkit that can provide detailed insight into the reactivity and dynamics of biomolecules.

Compounds that contain phosphate and sulfate groups are essential in the living world. They are present as i.e., a biological source of energy (ATP), signaling molecules (GTP), coenzymes, building blocks (DNA, RNA). Furthermore, phosphate esters can be used as insecticides, herbicides, flame retardants, and as chemical weapons. Cleavage of the phosphate bond involves an extremely low rate of spontaneous hydrolysis, nevertheless it is common reaction in living organisms. Phosphatases (enzymes catalysing cleavage of phosphate bond) are crucial in both physiological regulation as well as serious pathological conditions including asthma, immunosuppression, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes.

Understanding the basis of phosphoryl and sulfuryl transfer reactions is crucial for medical, biological, and biotechnological industries in order to i.e., create and improve existing drugs, modify enzyme structures, understand the development of some diseases. However, despite decades of both experimental and computational studies, mechanistic details of these reactions remain controversial. These reactions can occur via multiple different mechanisms involving intermediate steps or transition state structures. To solve these puzzles, we performed computational studies to verify the reaction pathway of diaryl sulfate diesters hydrolysis. We suggest that the reaction proceeds through a concerted mechanism with a loose (slightly dissociative) transition state.

Serum paraoxonase 1 (PON1) is calcium-dependent lactonase, which is bound to high-density lipoprotein (HDL) with apolipoprotein A-I (ApoA-I).  The enzyme is highly promiscuous and catalyzes the hydrolysis of multiple, different types of chemical compounds, such as lactones, aromatic esters, oxons, and organophosphates. We performed several, complex studies on PON1’s reaction mechanism, promiscuity, PON1-HDL interactions, and evolutionary trajectories. One of the most extensively used approaches in this thesis was the empirical valence bond (EVB) method. Our models reproduce essential experimental observables and provide mechanistic insights and a better understanding of the enzymes role and its evolutionary derived promiscuity.