The catalytic mechanism of Mus musculus adenosine deaminase (ADA) has been studied by quantum mechanics and two-layered ONIOM calculations. Our calculations show that the previously proposed mechanism, involving His238 as the general base to activate the Zn-bound water, has a high activation barrier of about 28 kcal/mol at the proposed rate-determining nucleophilic addition step, and the corresponding calculated kinetic isotope effects are significantly different from the recent experimental observations. We propose a revised mechanism based on calculations, in which Glu217 serves as the general base to abstract the proton of the Zn-bound water, and the protonated Glu217 then activates the substrate for the subsequent nucleophilic addition. The rate-determining step is the proton transfer from Zn-OH to 6-NH(2) of the tetrahedral intermediate, in which His238 serves as a proton shuttle for the proton transfer. The calculated kinetic isotope effects agree well with the experimental data, and calculated activation energy is also consistent with the experimental reaction rate.
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