Electronic structure of compound I in human isoforms of cytochrome P450 from QM/MM modeling

Christine M Bathelt, Jolanta Zurek, Adrian J Mulholland, Jeremy N Harvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

138 Citations (Scopus)


Human cytochromes P450 play a vital role in drug metabolism. The key step in substrate oxidation involves hydrogen atom abstraction or C=C bond addition by the oxygen atom of the Compound I intermediate. The latter has three unpaired electrons, two on the Fe-O center and one shared between the porphyrin ring and the proximal cysteinyl sulfur atom. Changes in its electronic structure have been suggested to affect reactivity. The electronic and geometric structure of Compound I in three important human subfamilies of cytochrome P450 (P450, 2C, 2B, and 3A) that are major contributors to drug metabolism is characterized here using combined quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical (QM/MM) calculations at the B3LYP:CHARMM27 level. Compound I is remarkably similar in all isoforms, with the third unpaired electron located mainly on the porphyrin ring, and this prediction is not very sensitive to details of the QM/MM methodology, such as the DFT functional, the basis set, or the size of the QM region. The presence of substrate also has no effect. The main source of variability in spin density on the cysteinyl sulfur (from 26 to 50%) is the details of the system setup, such as the starting protein geometry used for QM/MM minimization. This conformational effect is larger than the differences between human isoforms, which are therefore not distinguishable on electronic grounds, so it is unlikely that observed large differences in substrate selectivity can be explained to a large extent in these terms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12900-8
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number37
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sep 2005


  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Electronics
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Structure
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Quantum Theory


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