Pyrene.pyrene complexes at the active site of cytochrome P450 3A4: evidence for a multiple substrate binding site

J Am Chem Soc. 2002 Oct 9;124(40):11866-7. doi: 10.1021/ja027552x.


Cytochrome P450 monooxygenases (CYPs) metabolize nearly all drugs and toxins. Recently, it has become clear that CYPs exhibit both homotropic and heterotropic allosteric kinetics for many substrates. However, the mechanism of cooperative kinetics has not been established for any specific human CYP/substrate combination. Suggested mechanisms include binding of multiple substrates within distinct, static, subsites of a single large active site or binding of multiple substrates within a single fluid active site. CYP3A4 hydroxylates pyrene with positive cooperativity. Therefore, experiments were designed to exploit the fluorescence properties of pyrene, which diagnostically distinguish between pyrene.pyrene complexes versus spatially separated pyrene substrates. Pyrene complexes (excimers) yield an emission spectrum clearly distinct from pyrene monomers. In lipid-free aqueous/glycerol solutions of CYP3A4, addition of pyrene affords a concentration-dependent low-spin to high-spin conversion of the CYP3A4 heme prosthetic group, indicating occupancy of the active site by pyrene. Under the same conditions, in the presence of CYP3A4 but not other heme proteins, the excimer/monomer ratio (E/M) of pyrene was decreased in emission spectra, compared to pyrene alone. However, excitation spectra indicate a CYP3A4-dependent increase in the wavelength shift for the excimer excitation spectrum versus the monomer excitation spectrum, as well as changes in the excimer excitation peak shape and vibronic structure. These changes are reversed by the CYP3A4 substrate testosterone. Together, the results demonstrate that pyrene.pyrene ground-state complexes occupy the CYP3A4 active site, and they provide the first spectroscopic evidence for substrate complexes within a single fluid active site. Functional implications include the possibility that turnover rate, regioselectivity, and stereoselectivity of the reaction are determined by the substrate.substrate complex rather than individual substrates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / chemistry*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism
  • Pyrenes / chemistry*
  • Pyrenes / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Spectrophotometry, Ultraviolet


  • Pyrenes
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • CYP3A protein, human
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A