A computational modeling/protein engineering approach was applied to probe H234, C457, T509, Y510, and W587 within Saccharomyces cerevisiae oxidosqualene-lanosterol cyclase (ERG7), which spatially affects the C-10 cation of lanosterol formation. Substitution of Trp587 to aromatic residues supported the “aromatic hypothesis” that the π-electron-rich pocket is important for the stabilization of electron-deficient cationic intermediates. The Cys457 to Gly and Thr509 to Gly mutations disrupted the pre-existing H-bond to the protonating Asp456 and the intrinsic His234:Tyr510 H-bond network, respectively, and generated achilleol A as the major product. An H234W/Y510W double mutation altered the ERG7 function to achilleol A synthase activity and generated achilleol A as the sole product. These results support the concept that a few-ring triterpene synthase can be derived from polycyclic cyclases by reverse evolution, and exemplify the power of computational modeling coupled with protein engineering both to study the enzyme's structure–function–mechanism relationships and to evolve new enzymatic activity.
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Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry
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