Quantum mechanically derived AMBER-compatible heme parameters for various states of the cytochrome P450 catalytic cycle

J Comput Chem. 2012 Jan 15;33(2):119-33. doi: 10.1002/jcc.21922. Epub 2011 Oct 14.


Molecular mechanics (MM) methods are computationally affordable tools for screening chemical libraries of novel compounds for sites of P450 metabolism. One challenge for MM methods has been the absence of a consistent and transferable set of parameters for the heme within the P450 active site. Experimental data indicate that mammalian P450 enzymes vary greatly in the size, architecture, and plasticity of their active sites. Thus, obtaining X-ray-based geometries for the development of accurate MM parameters for the major classes of hepatic P450 remains a daunting task. Our previous work with preliminary gas-phase quantum mechanics (QM)-derived atomic partial charges greatly improved the accuracy of docking studies of raloxifene to CYP3A4. We have therefore developed and tested a consistent set of transferable MM parameters based on gas-phase QM calculations of two model systems of the heme-a truncated (T-HM) and a full (F-HM) for four states of the P450 catalytic cycle. Our results indicate that the use of the atomic partial charges from the F-HM further improves the accuracy of docked predictions for raloxifene to CYP3A4. Different patterns for substrate docking are also observed depending on the choice of heme model and state. Newly parameterized heme models are tested in implicit and explicitly solvated MD simulations in the absence and presence of enzyme structures, for CYP3A4, and appear to be stable on the nanosecond simulation timescale. The new force field for the various heme states may aid the community for simulations of P450 enzymes and other heme-containing enzymes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biocatalysis*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / chemistry*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Heme / chemistry*
  • Heme / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Quantum Theory*


  • Heme
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System