Enolate formation by proton abstraction from an sp3-hybridized carbon atom situated next to a carbonyl or carboxylate group is an abundant process in nature. Since the corresponding nonenzymatic process in water is slow and unfavorable due to high intrinsic free energy barriers and high substrate pKa s, enzymes catalyzing such reaction steps must overcome both kinetic and thermodynamic obstacles. Computer simulations were used to study enolate formation catalyzed by glyoxalase I (GlxI) and 3-oxo-Δ5-steroid isomerase (KSI). The results, which reproduce experimental kinetic data, indicate that for both enzymes the free energy barrier reduction originates mainly from the balancing of substrate and catalytic base pKas. This was found to be accomplished primarily by electrostatic interactions. The results also suggest that the remaining barrier reduction can be explained by the lower reorganization energy in the preorganized enzyme compared to the solution reaction. Moreover, it seems that quantum effects, arising from zero-point vibrations and proton tunnelling, do not contribute significantly to the barrier reduction in GlxI. For KSI, the formation of a low-barrier hydrogen bond between the enzyme and the enolate, which is suggested to stabilize the enolate, was investigated and found unlikely. The low pKa of the catalytic base in the nonpolar active site of KSI may possibly be explained by the presence of a water molecule not detected by experiments. The hemoglobin-degrading aspartic proteases plasmepsinI and plasmepsin II from Plasmodium falciparum have emerged as putative drug targets against malaria. A series of C2- symmetric compounds with a 1,2-dihydroxyethylene scaffold were investigated for plasmepsin affinity, using computer simulations and enzyme inhibition assays. The calculations correctly predicted the stereochemical preferences of the scaffold and the effect of chemical modifications. Calculated absolute binding free energies reproduced experimental data well. As these inhibitors have down to subnanomolar inhibition constants of the plasmepsins and no measurable affinity to human cathepsin D, they constitute promising lead compounds for further drug development.