Cytochrome P450 enzymes play key roles in the metabolism of the majority of drugs. Improved models for prediction of likely metabolites will contribute to drug development. In this work, two possible metabolic routes (aromatic carbon oxidation and O-demethylation) of dextromethorphan are compared using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and density functional theory (DFT). The DFT results on a small active site model suggest that both reactions might occur competitively. Docking and MD studies of dextromethorphan in the active site of P450 2D6 show that the dextromethorphan is located close to heme oxygen in a geometry apparently consistent with competitive metabolism. In contrast, calculations of the reaction path in a large protein model [using a hybrid quantum mechanical-molecular mechanics (QM/MM) method] show a very strong preference for O-demethylation, in accordance with experimental results. The aromatic carbon oxidation reaction is predicted to have a high activation energy, due to the active site preventing formation of a favorable transition-state structure. Hence, the QM/MM calculations demonstrate a crucial role of many active site residues in determining reactivity of dextromethorphan in P450 2D6. Beyond substrate binding orientation and reactivity of Compound I, successful metabolite predictions must take into account the detailed mechanism of oxidation in the protein. These results demonstrate the potential of QM/MM methods to investigate specificity in drug metabolism.
The article is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is free to access.