Insights into the acylation mechanism of class A beta-lactamases from molecular dynamics simulations of the TEM-1 enzyme complexed with benzylpenicillin

J Am Chem Soc. 2003 Jan 22;125(3):672-84. doi: 10.1021/ja027704o.


Herein, we present results from molecular dynamics MD simulations ( approximately 1 ns) of the TEM-1 beta-lactamase in aqueous solution. Both the free form of the enzyme and its complex with benzylpenicillin were studied. During the simulation of the free enzyme, the conformation of the Omega loop and the interresidue contacts defining the complex H-bond network in the active site were quite stable. Most interestingly, the water molecule connecting Glu166 and Ser70 does not exchange with bulk solvent, emphasizing its structural and catalytic relevance. In the presence of the substrate, Ser130, Ser235, and Arg244 directly interact with the beta-lactam carboxylate via H-bonds, whereas the Lys234 ammonium group has only an electrostatic influence. These interactions together with other specific contacts result in a very short distance ( approximately 3 A) between the attacking hydroxyl group of Ser70 and the beta-lactam ring carbonyl group, which is a favorable orientation for nucleophilic attack. Our simulations also gave insight into the possible pathways for proton abstraction from the Ser70 hydroxyl group. We propose that either the Glu166 carboxylate-Wat1 or the substrate carboxylate-Ser130 moieties could abstract a proton from the nucleophilic Ser70.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acylation
  • Binding Sites
  • Computer Simulation
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Molecular
  • Penicillin G / chemistry*
  • Penicillin G / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation
  • Solutions
  • Thermodynamics
  • Water / chemistry
  • beta-Lactamases / chemistry*
  • beta-Lactamases / metabolism


  • Solutions
  • Water
  • beta-Lactamases
  • beta-lactamase TEM-1
  • Penicillin G