ConspectusThe selective hydrolysis of a peptide or amide bond (-(O=)C-NH-) by a synthetic metallopeptidase is required in a wide range of biological, biotechnological, and industrial applications. In nature, highly specialized enzymes known as proteases and peptidases are used to accomplish this daunting task. Currently, many peptide bond cleaving enzymes and synthetic reagents have been utilized to achieve efficient peptide hydrolysis. However, they possess some serious limitations. To overcome these inadequacies, a variety of metal complexes have been developed that mimic the activities of natural enzymes (metallopeptidases). However, in comparison to metallopeptidases, the hydrolytic reactions facilitated by their existing synthetic analogues are considerably slower and occur with lower catalytic turnover. This could be due to the following reasons: (1) they lack chemical properties of amino acid residues found within enzyme active sites; (2) they contain a higher metal coordination number compared with naturally occurring enzymes; and (3) they do not have access to second coordination shell residues that provide substantial rate enhancements in enzymes. Additionally, the critical structural and mechanistic information required for the development of the next generation of synthetic metallopeptidases cannot be readily obtained through existing experimental techniques. This is because most experimental techniques cannot follow the individual chemical steps in the catalytic cycle due to the fast rate of enzymes. They are also limited by the fact that the diamagnetic d10 Zn(II) center is silent to electronic, electron spin resonance, and 67Zn NMR spectroscopies.Therefore, we have employed molecular dynamics (MD), quantum mechanics (QM), and hybrid quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) techniques to derive this information. In particular, the role of the metal ions, ligands, and microenvironment in the functioning of mono- and binuclear metal center containing enzymes such as insulin degrading enzyme (IDE) and bovine lens leucine aminopeptidase (BILAP), respectively, and their synthetic analogues have been investigated.Our results suggested that in the functioning of IDE, the chemical nature of the peptide bond played a role in the energetics of the reaction and the peptide bond cleavage occurred in the rate-limiting step of the mechanism. In the cocatalytic mechanism used by BILAP, one metal center polarized the scissile peptide bond through the formation of a bond between the metal and the carbonyl group of the substrate, while the second metal center delivered the hydroxyl nucleophile. The Zn(N3) [Zn(His, His, His)] core of matrix metalloproteinase was better than the Zn(N2O) [Zn(His, His, Glu)] core of IDE for peptide hydrolysis. Due to the synergistic interaction between the two metal centers, the binuclear metal center containing Pd2(μ-OH)(aneN6)]4+ complex was found to be ∼100 times faster than the mononuclear [Pd(H2O)4]2+ complex. A successful small-molecule synthetic analogue of a mononuclear metallopeptidase must contain a metal with a strong Lewis acidity capable of reducing the pKa of its water ligand to less than 7. Ideally, the metal center should include three ligands with low basicity. The steric effects or strain exerted by the microenvironment could be used to weaken the metal-ligand interactions and increase the activity of the metallopeptidase.
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