This article focuses on the second step of the catalytic mechanism for the reduction of ribonucleotides catalyzed by the enzyme Ribonucleotide Reductase (RNR). This step corresponds to the protonation/elimination of the substrate's C-2′ hydroxyl group. Protonation is accomplished by the neighbor Cys-225, leading to the formation of one water molecule. This is a very relevant step since most of the known inhibitors of this enzyme, which are already used in the fight against certain forms of cancer, are 2′-substituted substrate analogs. Even though some theoretical studies have been performed in the past, they have modeled the enzyme with minimal gas-phase models, basically represented by a part of the side chain of the relevant amino acids, disconnected from the protein backbone. This procedure resulted in a limited accuracy in the position and/or orientation of the participating residues, which can result in erroneous energetics and even mistakes in the choice of the correct mechanism for this step. To overcome these limitations we have used a very large model, including a whole R1 model with 733 residues plus the substrate and 10 Å thick shell of water molecules, instead of the minimal gas-phase models used in previous works. The ONIOM method was employed to deal with such a large system. This model can efficiently account for the restrained mobility of the reactive residues, as well as the long-range enzyme-substrate interactions. The results gave additional information about this step, which previous small models could not provide, allowing a much clearer evaluation of the role of the enzyme. The interaction energy between the enzyme and the substrate along the reaction coordinate and the substrate steric strain energy have been obtained. The conclusion was that the barrier obtained with the present model was very similar to the one previously determined with minimal gas-phase models. Therefore, the role of the enzyme in this step was concluded to be mainly entropic, rather than energetic, by placing the substrate and the two reactive residues in a position that allows for the highly favorable concerted trimolecular reaction, and to protect the enzyme radical from the solvent
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