The activation of electrophile, nucleophile and leaving group during the reaction catalysed by pI258 arsenate reductase

Chembiochem. 2006 Jun;7(6):981-9. doi: 10.1002/cbic.200500507.


The reduction of arsenate to arsenite by pI258 arsenate reductase (ArsC) combines a nucleophilic displacement reaction with a unique intramolecular disulfide cascade. Within this reaction mechanism, the oxidative equivalents are translocated from the active site to the surface of ArsC. The first reaction step in the reduction of arsenate by pI258 ArsC consists of a nucleophilic displacement reaction carried out by Cys10 on dianionic arsenate. The second step involves the nucleophilic attack of Cys82 on the Cys10-arseno intermediate formed during the first reaction step. The onset of the second step is studied here by using quantum chemical calculations in a density functional theory context. The optimised geometry of the Cys10-arseno adduct in the ArsC catalytic site (sequence motif: Cys10-Thr11-Gly12-Asn13-Ser14-Cys15-Arg16-Ser17) forms the starting point for all subsequent calculations. Thermodynamic data and a hard and soft acids and bases (HSAB) reactivity analysis show a preferential nucleophilic attack on a monoanionic Cys10-arseno adduct, which is stabilised by Ser17. The P-loop active site of pI258 ArsC activates first a hydroxy group and subsequently arsenite as the leaving group, as is clear from an increase in the calculated nucleofugality of these groups upon going from the gas phase to the solvent phase to the enzymatic environment. Furthermore, the enzymatic environment stabilises the thiolate form of the nucleophile Cys82 by 3.3 pH units through the presence of the eight-residue alpha helix flanked by Cys82 and Cys89 (redox helix) and through a hydrogen bond with Thr11. The importance of Thr11 in the pKa regulation of Cys82 was confirmed by the observed decrease in the kcat value of the Thr11Ala mutant as compared to that of wild-type ArsC. During the final reaction step, Cys89 is activated as a nucleophile by structural alterations of the redox helix that functions as a pKa control switch for Cys89; this final step is necessary to expose a Cys82-Cys89 disulfide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arsenates / chemistry*
  • Arsenite Transporting ATPases
  • Catalysis
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cysteine / chemistry
  • Electrochemistry
  • Ion Pumps / chemistry*
  • Ion Pumps / isolation & purification
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Structure
  • Multienzyme Complexes / chemistry*
  • Multienzyme Complexes / isolation & purification
  • Mutation
  • Staphylococcus aureus / enzymology*


  • Arsenates
  • Ion Pumps
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Arsenite Transporting ATPases
  • Cysteine
  • arsenic acid