Cytochrome P450s are a broad class of enzymes in the human body with important functions for human health, which include the metabolism and detoxification of compounds in the liver. Thus, in their catalytic cycle, the P450s form a high-valent iron(IV)-oxo heme cation radical as the active species (called Compound I) that reacts with substrates through oxygen atom transfer. This work discusses the possible degradation mechanisms of phthalates by cytochrome P450s in the liver, through computational modelling, using 2-ethylhexyl-phthalate as a model substrate. Phthalates are a type of compound commonly found in the environment from cosmetics usage, but their biodegradation in the liver may lead to toxic metabolites. Experimental studies revealed a multitude of products and varying product distributions among P450 isozymes. To understand the regio- and chemoselectivity of phthalate activation by P450 isozymes, we focus here on the mechanisms of phthalate activation by Compound I leading to O-dealkylation, aliphatic hydroxylation and aromatic hydroxylation processes. We set up model complexes of Compound I with the substrate and investigated the reaction mechanisms for products using the density functional theory on models and did a molecular mechanics study on enzymatic structures. The work shows that several reaction barriers in the gas-phase are close in energy, leading to a mixture of products. However, when we tried to dock the substrate into a P450 isozyme, some of the channels were inaccessible due to unfavorable substrate positions. Product distributions are discussed under various reaction conditions and rationalized with valence bond and thermodynamic models.
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