Natural Variants of the KPC-2 Carbapenemase have Evolved Increased Catalytic Efficiency for Ceftazidime Hydrolysis at the Cost of Enzyme Stability

PLoS Pathog. 2015 Jun 1;11(6):e1004949. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004949. eCollection 2015 Jun.


The spread of β-lactamases that hydrolyze penicillins, cephalosporins and carbapenems among Gram-negative bacteria has limited options for treating bacterial infections. Initially, Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase-2 (KPC-2) emerged as a widespread carbapenem hydrolyzing β-lactamase that also hydrolyzes penicillins and cephalosporins but not cephamycins and ceftazidime. In recent years, single and double amino acid substitution variants of KPC-2 have emerged among clinical isolates that show increased resistance to ceftazidime. Because it confers multi-drug resistance, KPC β-lactamase is a threat to public health. In this study, the evolution of KPC-2 function was determined in nine clinically isolated variants by examining the effects of the substitutions on enzyme kinetic parameters, protein stability and antibiotic resistance profile. The results indicate that the amino acid substitutions associated with KPC-2 natural variants lead to increased catalytic efficiency for ceftazidime hydrolysis and a consequent increase in ceftazidime resistance. Single substitutions lead to modest increases in catalytic activity while the double mutants exhibit significantly increased ceftazidime hydrolysis and resistance levels. The P104R, V240G and H274Y substitutions in single and double mutant combinations lead to the largest increases in ceftazidime hydrolysis and resistance. Molecular modeling suggests that the P104R and H274Y mutations could facilitate ceftazidime hydrolysis through increased hydrogen bonding interactions with the substrate while the V240G substitution may enhance backbone flexibility so that larger substrates might be accommodated in the active site. Additionally, we observed a strong correlation between gain of catalytic function for ceftazidime hydrolysis and loss of enzyme stability, which is in agreement with the 'stability-function tradeoff' phenomenon. The high Tm of KPC-2 (66.5°C) provides an evolutionary advantage as compared to other class A enzymes such as TEM (51.5°C) and CTX-M (51°C) in that it can acquire multiple destabilizing substitutions without losing the ability to fold into a functional enzyme.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / metabolism
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Ceftazidime / metabolism
  • Enzyme Stability / physiology
  • Hydrolysis
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Mutation
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • beta-Lactamases / chemistry*
  • beta-Lactamases / metabolism*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Ceftazidime
  • beta-lactamase KPC-2
  • beta-Lactamases