A theoretical examination of the factors controlling the catalytic efficiency of the DNA-(adenine-N6)-methyltransferase from Thermus aquaticus

Zachary E R Newby, Edmond Y Lau, Thomas C. Bruice

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Ab initio and density functional calculations have been carried out to more fully understand the factors controlling the catalytic activity of the Thermus aquaticus DNA methyltransferase (MTaqI) in the N-methylation at the N6 of an adenine nucleobase. The noncatalyzed reaction was modeled as a methyl transfer from trimethylsulfonium to the N6 of adenine. Activation barriers of 32.0 kcal/mol and 24.0 kcal/mol were predicted for the noncatalyzed reaction in the gas phase by MP2/6-31+G(d,p)//HF/6-31+G(d,p) and B3LYP/6-31+G(d,p) calculations, respectively. Calculations performed to evaluate the effect of substrate positioning in the active site of MTaqI on the reaction determine the barrier to be 23.4 kcal/mol and 17.3 kcal/mol for the MP2/6-31+G(d,p)//HF/6-31+G(d,p) and B3LYP/6-31+G(d,p) gas phase calculations, respectively. The effect of hydrogen bonding between the N6 of adenine and the terminal oxygen of Asn-105 on the activation barrier was also studied. A formamide molecule was modeled into the system to mimic the function of active site residue Asn-105. The activation barrier for this reaction was found to be 21.8 kcal/mol and 15.8 kcal/mol as determined from the MP2/6-31+G(d,p)//HF/6-31+G(d,p) and B3LYP/6-31+G(d,p) calculations, respectively. This result predicts a contribution of less than 2 kcal/mol to the lowering of the activation barrier from amide hydrogen bonding between formamide and N6 of adenine. Comparison of the reaction coordinates suggest that it is not the hydrogen bonding of the Asn-105 that lends to the catalytic prowess of the enzyme since the organization of the substrates in the active site of the enzyme has a far greater effect on reducing the activation barrier. The results also suggest a stepwise mechanism for the removal of the hydrogen from the N6 of adenine as opposed to a concerted reaction in which a proton is abstracted simultaneously with the transfer of the methyl group. The hydrogen on the N6 of the intermediate methyl adenine product is far more acidic than in the reactant complex and may be subsequently abstracted by basic groups in the active site that are too weak to abstract the proton before the full sp3 hybridization of the attacking nitrogen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7922-7927
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 11 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General


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