The pyridoxal 5-phosphate (PLP) cofactor is a significant organic molecule in medicinal chemistry. It is often found covalently bound to lysine residues in proteins to form PLP dependent enzymes. An example of this family of PLP dependent enzymes is c-aminobutyric acid aminotransferase (GABA-AT) which is responsible for the degradation of the neurotransmitter GABA. Its inhibition or inactivation can be used to prevent the reduction of GABA concentration in brain which is the source of several neurological disorders. As a test case for PLP dependent enzymes, we have performed molecular dynamics simulations of GABA-AT to reveal the roles of the protein residues and its cofactor. Three different states have been considered: the apoenzyme, the holoenzyme, and the inactive state obtained after the suicide inhibition by vigabatrin. Different protonation states have also been considered for PLP and two key active site residues: Asp298 and His190. Together, 24 independent molecular dynamics trajectories have been simulated for a cumulative total of 2.88 ms. Our results indicate that, unlike in aqueous solution, the PLP pyridine moiety is protonated in GABA-AT. This is a consequence of a pKa shift triggered by a strong charge-charge interaction with an ionic "diad" formed by Asp298 and His190 that would help the activation of the first half-reaction of the catalytic mechanism in GABA-AT: the conversion of PLP to free pyridoxamine phosphate (PMP). In addition, our MD simulations exhibit additional strong hydrogen bond networks between the protein and PLP: the phosphate group is held in place by the donation of at least three hydrogen bonds while the carbonyl oxygen of the pyridine ring interacts with Gln301; Phe181 forms a p-p stacking interaction with the pyridine ring and works as a gate keeper with the assistance of Val300. All these interactions are hypothesized to help maintain free PMP in place inside the protein active site to facilitate the second half-reaction in GABA-AT: the regeneration of PLP-bound GABA-AT (i.e., the holoenzyme). (C) 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.