September 2012

From motor to metalloproteins: the wonderful world of biocatalysis

Catalytic mechanisms art by Mary O’Reilly 
Courtesy of Mary O’Reilly

The catalytic mechanism theme has something for everyone. With the diversity of the field in mind, we have developed four sessions depicting frontiers of enzymatic catalysis.

Molecular motor proteins convert chemical bond energy into force generation and mechanical work. One session will highlight common mechanistic features and functional diversity among ATPase motor proteins via discussion of three systems: RNA helicases, nonmuscle myosins and kinesins. Speakers will discuss the chemical mechanisms of these enzymes, focusing on how their catalytic cycles are linked to thermodynamic and structural changes associated with force production and directed motility.

Meanwhile, enzymes long have been noted for their effective catalysis toward specific substrates. However, many enzymes are promiscuous in that they can metabolize multiple chemical substrates and/or catalyze different reactions on an individual substrate. Speakers in the thematic session on catalytic and substrate promiscuity will discuss the molecular origins of enzyme promiscuity as well as its critical role in the evolution of new catalytic activities and functions.


Molecular Motor Proteins — Force & Work as Products
Catalytic & Substrate Promiscuity
Bioenergy & Enzymatic Catalysis
Cool Catalysis & Radically New Reaction Mechanisms

For more details, go to the ASBMB 2013 meeting program page and click to expand “Catalytic Mechanisms.”

With a renewed national focus on alternative energy and the environment, our third session presents contributions that biochemists are making to the emerging field of bioenergy. Speakers will highlight recent advances in our understanding of the enzymatic machinery of photosynthesis, the assembly of the biological cofactors required for hydrogenase activity, and the enzymatic sequestration of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Once thought to represent a small subset of reaction mechanisms, identification of radical-based enzymatic chemistry is on the rise. In the “Cool Catalysis and Radically New Reaction Mechanisms” session, we will hear about enzymes with cool catalytic centers that perform dramatic chemical transformations. These enzymes will range from well-studied radical enzymes such as ribonucleotide reductase to newly discovered biosynthetic enzymes.


Photo of Enrique de la CruzPhoto of Catherine DrennanEnrique M. De La Cruz ( is a professor at Yale University. Catherine Drennan ( is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

ASBMB annual meeting grassy knoll graphic
found= true1955