Programs of drug discovery generally exploit one enantiomer of a chiral compound for lead development following the principle that enantiomer recognition is central to biological specificity. However, chiral promiscuity has been identified for a number of enzyme families, which have shown that mirror-image packing can enable opposite enantiomers to be accommodated in an enzyme's active site. Reported here is a series of crystallographic studies of complexes between an enzyme and a potent experimental herbicide whose chiral center forms an essential part of the inhibitor pharmacophore. Initial studies with a racemate at 1.85 Å resolution failed to identify the chirality of the bound inhibitor, however, by extending the resolution to 1.1 Å and by analyzing high-resolution complexes with the enantiopure compounds, we determined that both enantiomers make equivalent pseudosymmetric interactions in the active site, thus mimicking an achiral reaction intermediate.
- drug design
- structural biology