Solvent isotope effects in the catalytic cycle of P450 CYP17A1: Computational modeling of the hydroxylation and lyase reactions

Ilia G. Denisov, Stephen G. Sligar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The catalytic cycle of the cytochromes P450 (CYP) requires two electrons from a protein redox partner and two protons from water to generate the main catalytic intermediate, a ferryl-oxo complex with π-cation on the heme porphyrin ring, termed Compound 1. The protonation steps are at least partially rate-limiting, therefore the steady-state rates of P450 catalysis are usually slower in deuterated solvent (D2O) by a factor of 1.5–3. However, in several P450 systems a pronounced inverse kinetic solvent isotope effect (KSIE ∼0.4–0.7) is observed, where the reaction is faster in D2O. This raises an important mechanistic question: Is this inverse solvent isotope effect compatible with Compound 1 catalyzed reactions, or is it indicative of another catalytic intermediate being involved? In this communication we use exhaustive numerical modeling of the P450 steady-state kinetics to demonstrate that a significant inverse KSIE cannot be obtained for a pure Compound 1 driven catalytic cycle of P450. Rather, an alternative, protonation independent, catalytic intermediate needs to be introduced. This result is applicable to the broad spectrum of P450s in nature, but as an example we use the extensively documented inverse isotope effect in the human steroid biosynthetic P450 CYP17A1 where the involvement of a heme peroxo anion intermediate has been characterized. Based on this analysis, we show that the observation of an inverse KSIE can be used as a general mechanistic probe for reaction cycle intermediates in the cytochromes P450.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112202
JournalJournal of Inorganic Biochemistry
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • C-C lyase reaction
  • CYP17A1
  • Cytochrome P450
  • Kinetic solvent isotope effect
  • Steady-state kinetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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