Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name



Chemistry and Biochemistry


Compuational Chemistry, Electronic calculations, Enzymatic Studies, Molecular Dynamics, QM/MM, Quantum Mechanics


Gauld, James




Obtaining insights into the catalytic function of enzymes is an important area of research due to their widespread applications in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Among these enzymes, the aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) are known for their remarkable fidelity in catalyzing the aminoacylation reactions of tRNA in protein biosynthesis. Despite the exceptional execution of this critical function, mechanistic details of the reactions catalyzed by aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases remain elusive demonstrating the obvious need to explore their remarkable chemistry. During the PhD studies reported in this thesis the mechanism of aminoacylation, pre-transfer editing and post-transfer editing catalyzed by different aaRS have been established using multi-scale computational enzymology. In the first two chapters a detailed information about aaRS and the addressed questions was given in addition to an overview of the used computational methodology currently used to investigate the enzymatic mechanisms. The aminoacylation mechanism of threonine by Threonyl-tRNA synthetases, glutamine by Glutaminyl-tRNA synthetases and glutamate by Glutamyl-tRNA synthetases have been clearly unveiled in chapter 3 and 4. Also, valuable information regarding the role of cofactors and active site residues has been obtained. While investigating the post-transfer editing mechanisms, which proceed in a remote and distinct active site, two different scenarios were experimentally suggested for two types of threonyltRNA synthetase species to correct the misacylation of the structurally related serine. We explored these two mechanisms as in chapters 5 and 6. Moreover, the synthetic site in which the aminoacylation reaction is catalyzed, is also responsible for a second type of proofreading reaction called pre-transfer editing mechanism. In chapter 7, this latter mechanism has been elucidated for both Seryl-tRNA synthetases and Isoleucyl-tRNA synthetases against their non-cognate substrates cysteine and valine, respectively. In chapter 8, an assessment QM/MM study using a variety of DFT functionals to represent the chemically active layer in aminoacylation mechanism of the unnatural amino acid ß-Hydroxynorvaline as catalyzed by Threonyl-tRNA synthetase has been carried out. Overall, it was found that substrateassisted mechanisms are a common pathway for these enzymes. One important application of such information is to establish the criteria required for any candidate to inhibit the catalytic functions of aaRS, which was applied in chapter 9 to screen potential competitive inhibitors able to efficiently block the bacterial Threonyl-tRNA synthetases. The investigations reported herein should provide atomistic details into the fundamental catalytic mechanisms of the ubiquitous and ancient aaRS enzymes. Consequently, they will also help enable a much-needed deeper understanding of the underlying chemical principles of catalysis in general.