IspG and IspH are proteins that are involved in isoprenoid biosynthesis in most bacteria as well as in malaria parasites and are important drug targets. They contain cubane-type 4Fe-4S clusters that are involved in unusual 2H +/2e- reductions. Here, we report the results of electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopic investigations of the binding of amino- and thiolo-HMBPP (HMBPP = E-1-hydroxy-2-methyl-but-2-enyl 4-diphosphate) IspH substrate-analog inhibitors to both proteins, as well as the binding of HMBPP and an acetylene diphosphate inhibitor, to IspG. The results show that amino-HMBPP binds to reduced IspH by Fe-C π-bonding with the olefinic carbons interacting with the unique 4th Fe in the 4Fe-4S cluster, quite different to the direct Fe-N ligation seen with the oxidized protein. No such π-complex is observed when amino-HMBPP binds to reduced IspG. No EPR signal is observed with IspH in the presence of dithionite and thiolo-HMBPP, suggesting that the 4Fe-4S cluster is not reduced, consistent with the presence of a 420 nm feature in the absorption spectrum (characteristic of an oxidized cluster). However, with IspG, the EPR spectrum in the presence of dithionite and thiolo-HMBPP is very similar to that seen with HMBPP. The binding of HMBPP to IspG was studied using hyperfine sublevel correlation spectroscopy with 17O and 13C labeled samples: the results rule out direct Fe-O bonding and indicate π-bonding. Finally, the binding to IspG of a potent acetylene diphosphate inhibitor was studied by using electron-nuclear double resonance spectroscopy with 13C labeled ligands: the large hyperfine couplings indicate strong Fe-C π-bonding with the acetylenic group. These results illustrate a remarkable diversity in binding behavior for HMBPP-analog inhibitors, opening up new routes to inhibitor design of interest in the context of anti-bacterial and anti-malarial drug discovery, as well as "cubane-type" metallo-biochemistry, in general.
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