Mutations Utilize Dynamic Allostery to Confer Resistance in TEM-1 β-lactamase

Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Nov 29;19(12):3808. doi: 10.3390/ijms19123808.


β-lactamases are enzymes produced by bacteria to hydrolyze β-lactam antibiotics as a common mechanism of resistance. Evolution in such enzymes has been rendering a wide variety of antibiotics impotent, therefore posing a major threat. Clinical and in vitro studies of evolution in TEM-1 β-lactamase have revealed a large number of single point mutations that are responsible for driving resistance to antibiotics and/or inhibitors. The distal locations of these mutations from the active sites suggest that these allosterically modulate the antibiotic resistance. We investigated the effects of resistance driver mutations on the conformational dynamics of the enzyme to provide insights about the mechanism of their long-distance interactions. Through all-atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, we obtained the dynamic flexibility profiles of the variants and compared those with that of the wild type TEM-1. While the mutational sites in the variants did not have any direct van der Waals interactions with the active site position S70 and E166, we observed a change in the flexibility of these sites, which play a very critical role in hydrolysis. Such long distance dynamic interactions were further confirmed by dynamic coupling index (DCI) analysis as the sites involved in resistance driving mutations exhibited high dynamic coupling with the active sites. A more exhaustive dynamic analysis, using a selection pressure for ampicillin and cefotaxime resistance on all possible types of substitutions in the amino acid sequence of TEM-1, further demonstrated the observed mechanism. Mutational positions that play a crucial role for the emergence of resistance to new antibiotics exhibited high dynamic coupling with the active site irrespective of their locations. These dynamically coupled positions were neither particularly rigid nor particularly flexible, making them more evolvable positions. Nature utilizes these sites to modulate the dynamics of the catalytic sites instead of mutating the highly rigid positions around the catalytic site.

Keywords: allostery; antibiotic resistance; conformational dynamics; dynamic coupling; evolution; flexibility; molecular dynamics; β-lactamase.

MeSH terms

  • Ampicillin / pharmacology
  • Cefotaxime / pharmacology
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Mutation / genetics
  • beta-Lactamases / genetics*


  • Ampicillin
  • beta-Lactamases
  • beta-lactamase TEM-1
  • Cefotaxime