A proton-shuttle reaction mechanism for histone deacetylase 8 and the catalytic role of metal ions

Ruibo Wu, Shenglong Wang, Nengjie Zhou, Zexing Cao, Yingkai Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Zinc-dependent histone deacetylase 8 (HDAC8) catalyzes the removal of acetyl moieties from histone tails, and is critically involved in regulating chromatin structure and gene expression. The detailed knowledge of its catalytic process is of high importance since it has been established as a most promising target for the development of new antitumor drugs. By employing Born-Oppenheimer ab initio QM/MM molecular dynamics simulations and umbrella sampling, a state-of-the-art approach to simulate enzyme reactions, we have provided further evidence against the originally proposed general acid-base catalytic pair mechanism for Zinc-dependent histone deacetylases. Instead, our results indicated that HDAC8 employs a proton-shuttle catalytic mechanism, in which a neutral His143 first serves as the general base to accept a proton from the zinc-bound water molecule in the initial rate-determining nucleophilic attack step, and then shuttles it to the amide nitrogen atom to facilitate the cleavage of the amide bond. During the deacetylation process, the Zn 2+ ion changes its coordination mode and plays multiple catalytic roles. For the K+ion, which is located about 7 Å from the catalytic Zn2+ ion and conserved in class I and II HDACs, our simulations indicated that its removal would lead to the different transition state structure and a higher free energy reaction barrier for the rate-determining step. It is found that the existence of this conserved K + ion would enhance the substrate binding, increase the basicity of His143, strengthen the catalytic role of zinc ion, and improve the transition state stabilization by the enzyme environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9471-9479
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 14 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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