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Issue 14, 2011
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Electrostatic effects on (di)terpene synthase product outcome

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Terpene synthases catalyze complex reactions, often forming multiple chiral centers in cyclized olefin products from acyclic allylic diphosphate precursors, yet have been suggested to largely control their reactions via steric effects, serving as templates. However, recent results highlight electrostatic effects also exerted by these enzymes. Perhaps not surprisingly, the pyrophosphate co-product released in the initiating and rate-limiting chemical step provides an obvious counter-ion that may steer carbocation migration towards itself. This is emphasized by the striking effects of a recently uncovered single residue switch for diterpene synthase product outcome, whereby substitution of hydroxyl residues for particular aliphatic residues has been shown to be sufficient to “short-circuit” complex cyclization and/or rearrangement reactions, with the converse change further found to be sufficient to increase reaction complexity. The mechanistic hypothesis for the observed effects is hydroxyl dipole stabilization of the specific carbocation formed by initial cyclization, enabling deprotonation of this early intermediate, whereas the lack of such stabilization (i.e. in the presence of an aliphatic side chain) leads to carbocation migration towards the pyrophosphate co-product, resulting in a more complex reaction. This is further consistent with the greater synergy exhibited between pyrophosphate and aza-analogs of late, relative to early, stage carbocation intermediates, and crystallographic analysis of the monoterpene cyclase bornyl diphosphate synthase wherein mechanistically non-relevant counter-ion pairing between aza-analogs of early stage carbocation intermediates and pyrophosphate is observed. Thus, (di)terpene synthases seem to mediate specific reaction outcomes, at least in part, by providing electrostatic effects to counteract those exerted by the pyrophosphate co-product.

Graphical abstract: Electrostatic effects on (di)terpene synthase product outcome

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Article information

01 Aug 2010
14 Jan 2011
First published
08 Feb 2011

Chem. Commun., 2011,47, 4074-4080
Article type
Feature Article

Electrostatic effects on (di)terpene synthase product outcome

K. Zhou and R. J. Peters, Chem. Commun., 2011, 47, 4074
DOI: 10.1039/C0CC02960B

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