Structural and computational insights into the versatility of cadmium binding to proteins
Cadmium is a highly toxic group XII metal, similar to zinc and mercury. Unlike zinc, which is one of the most common metal cofactors in biology, cadmium is highly toxic. Many Zn2+-binding proteins can bind Cd2+-ions without significantly affecting their structures. Here, the protein data bank is analysed with regard to protein–cadmium interactions, which shows that cadmium can bind to a variety of ion binding sites in proteins. Statistical analysis of Cd2+-side chain interactions is compared with a similar analysis of other ions. This analysis reveals that with regard to amino acid side-chain preference, Cd2+ is more similar to Mn2+ than to Zn2+ or Hg2+. Finally, the interaction energies of three native metal binding proteins are calculated where Cd2+ binds instead of Zn2+, Ca2+ or Cu2+. The interaction energies are decomposed into individual components whose contributions are discussed.