The role of thiamin diphosphate (ThDP) as a cofactor for enzymes has been known for many decades. This minireview covers the progress made in understanding the catalytic mechanism of ThDP-dependent enzymes through the use of ThDP analogues. Many such analogues have been synthesized and have provided information on the functional groups necessary for the binding and catalytic activity of the cofactor. Through these studies, the important role of hydrophobic interactions in stabilizing reaction intermediates in the catalytic cycle has been recognized. Stable analogues of intermediates in the ThDP-catalysed reaction mechanism have also been synthesized and crystallographic studies using these analogues have allowed enzyme structures to be solved that represent snapshots of the reaction in progress. As well as providing mechanistic information about ThDP-dependent enzymes, many analogues are potent inhibitors of these enzymes. The potential of these compounds as therapeutic targets and as important herbicidal agents is discussed. More recently, the way that ThDP regulates the genes for its own biosynthesis through the action of riboswitches has been discovered. This opens a new branch of thiamin research with the potential to provide new therapeutic targets in the fight against infection.
Department of Chemistry
University of Cambridge