A new strategy of potentially broad application for probing transition-state (TS) analogy in enzymatic systems is described in this paper. The degree to which a series of phosphonate inhibitors act as TS analogues of rat carboxypeptidase Al has been determined for the wild-type enzyme, for the R127K, R127M, and R127A mutants, and for the R127A mutant in the presence of 0.5 M guanidine hydrochloride. The impact that the mutations have on the inverse second-order rate constants (Kmkcat) for substrate hydrolysis is mirrored by the effect on the inhibition constants (Ki) for the corresponding phosphonate inhibitors. These results demonstrate that the phosphonate moiety mimics some of the electronic as well as the geometric characteristics of the TS. A similar but distinctly separate correlation is observed for tripeptide analogues in comparison to analogues of the dipeptide Cbz-Gly-Phe, reflecting an anomalous mode of binding for the latter system. The selective rate increases and corresponding enhancement in inhibitor binding observed on addition of 0.5 M guanidine hydrochloride to the R127A mutant indicate that the exogenous cation can assume the role played by Arg-127 in stabilizing the TS and in providing substrate selectivity at the P2 position.
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