Catalysis by a De Novo Zinc-Mediated Protein Interface: Implications for Natural Enzyme Evolution and Rational Enzyme Engineering
Here we show that a recent computationally designed zinc-mediated protein interface is serendipitously capable of catalyzing carboxyester and phosphoester hydrolysis. Although the original motivation was to design a de novo zinc-mediated protein–protein interaction (called MID1-zinc), we observed in the homodimer crystal structure a small cleft and open zinc coordination site. We investigated if the cleft and zinc site at the designed interface were sufficient for formation of a primitive active site that can perform hydrolysis. MID1-zinc hydrolyzes 4-nitrophenyl acetate with a rate acceleration of 105 and a kcat/KM of 630 M–1 s–1 and 4-nitrophenyl phosphate with a rate acceleration of 104 and a kcat/KM of 14 M–1 s–1. These rate accelerations by an unoptimized active site highlight the catalytic power of zinc and suggest that the clefts formed by protein–protein interactions are well-suited for creating enzyme active sites. This discovery has implications for protein evolution and engineering: from an evolutionary perspective, three-coordinated zinc at a homodimer interface cleft represents a simple evolutionary path to nascent enzymatic activity; from a protein engineering perspective, future efforts in de novo design of enzyme active sites may benefit from exploring clefts at protein interfaces for active site placement.