Mechanism of NAD(P)H:quinone reductase: Ab initio studies of reduced flavin

German Cavelier, L. Mario Amzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase type 1 (QR1, NQO1, formerly DT-diaphorase; EC is an FAD-containing enzyme that catalyzes the nicotinamide nucleotide-dependent reduction of quinones, quinoneimines, azo dyes, and nitro groups. Animal cells are protected by QR1 from the toxic and neoplastic effects of quinones and other electrophiles. Alternatively, in tumor cells QR can activate a number of cancer chemotherapeutic agents such as mitomycins and aziridylbenzoquinones. Thus, the same enzyme that protects the organism from the deleterious effects of quinones can activate cytotoxic chemotherapeutic prodrugs and cause cancer cell death. The catalytic mechanism of QR includes an important initial step in which FAD is reduced by NAD(P)H. The unfavorable charge separation that results must be stabilized by the protein. The details of this charge stabilization step are inaccessible to easy experimental verification but can be studied by quantum chemistry methods. Here we report ab initio quantum mechanical calculations in and around the active site of the enzyme that provide information about the fine details of the contribution of the protein to the stabilization of the reduced flavin. The results show that (1) protein interactions provide approximately 2 kcal/ mol to stabilize the planar conformation of the reduced flavin isoalloxazine ring observed in the X-ray structure; (2) the charge separation present in the reduced planar form of the flavin is stabilized by interactions with groups of the protein; (3) even after stabilization, the reduction potential of the cofactor remains more negative than that of the free flavin, making it a better reductant for a larger variety of quinones; and (4) the more negative reduction potential may also result in faster kinetics for the quinone reduction step.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)420-432
Number of pages13
JournalProteins: Structure, Function and Genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2001


  • DT-diaphorase
  • Density functional
  • Enzymes
  • Flavoproteins
  • Isoalloxazine
  • Quantum chemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Mechanism of NAD(P)H:quinone reductase: Ab initio studies of reduced flavin'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this