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Carbapenems are important antibacterials and are both substrates and inhibitors of some β-lactamases. We report studies on the reaction of the unusual carbapenem biapenem, with the subclass B1 metallo-β-lactamases VIM-1 and VIM-2 and the class A serine-β-lactamase KPC-2. X-ray diffraction studies with VIM-2 crystals treated with biapenem reveal the opening of the β-lactam ring to form a mixture of the (2S)-imine and enamine complexed at the active site. NMR studies on the reactions of biapenem with VIM-1, VIM-2, and KPC-2 reveal the formation of hydrolysed enamine and (2R)- and (2S)-imine products. The combined results support the proposal that SBL/MBL-mediated carbapenem hydrolysis results in a mixture of tautomerizing enamine and (2R)- and (2S)-imine products, with the thermodynamically favoured (2S)-imine being the major observed species over a relatively long-time scale. The results suggest that prolonging the lifetimes of β-lactamase carbapenem complexes by optimising tautomerisation of the nascently formed enamine to the (2R)-imine and likely more stable (2S)-imine tautomer is of interest in developing improved carbapenems.

Original publication




Journal article





Publication Date





396 - 396