Recent x-ray structures of cytochrome P450 2B4 (CYP2B4) reveal an open form that undergoes a large-scale structural transition to a closed form upon binding to 4-(4-chlorophenyl)imidazole (4-CPI). Here, we report for the first time a complete solution thermodynamic study using isothermal titration calorimetry supported by spectroscopic studies to elucidate the conformational flexibility of CYP2B4 in binding imidazole inhibitors with different ring chemistry and side chains: 4-CPI, 1-benzylimidazole (1-BI), 1-CPI, 4-phenylimidazole (4-PI), 1-(2-(benzyloxy)ethyl)imidazole (BEI), and 1-PI. Each of the inhibitors induced type II spectral changes, and IC50 values for enzyme inhibition ranged from 0.1 to 2.4 μM, following the order 1-BI < 4-CPI < 1-CPI < 4-PI < BEI < 1-PI. Calorimetric titrations using monomeric enzyme yielded a 1:1 binding stoichiometry, with the associated KD values ranging from 0.3 to 4.8 μM and following the same rank order as the IC50 values. Changes in enthalpy at 25°C ranged from -6.5 to -8.8 kcal mol-1. The largest difference in binding entropy (+5.9 versus -4.1 cal mol-1K-1) was observed between 4-CPI and BEI, respectively, with a 2-fold difference in heat capacity changes (-604 versus -331 cal mol-1 K-1), which is inferred to result from the reduction of apolar surface area of the enzyme ensuing from a conformational change upon 4-CPI binding. Accessibility to acrylamide of the only tryptophan (Trp121), which is located in helix C, was greatly decreased only in protein bound to 4-CPI. Steric restrictions hindered the perfect docking of only BEI to the closed conformation of the enzyme. The thermodynamic signature obtained for structurally similar inhibitors suggests remarkable plasticity of CYP2B4.
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