β-Amyrin synthase from Euphorbia tirucalli L. functional analyses of the highly conserved aromatic residues Phe413, Tyr259 and Trp257 disclose the importance of the appropriate steric bulk, and cation–π and CH–π interactions for the efficient catalytic action of the polyolefin cyclization cascade†
Many of the functions of the active site residues in β-amyrin synthase and its catalytic mechanism remain unclear. Herein, we examined the functions of the highly conserved Phe413, Tyr259, and Trp257 residues in the β-amyrin synthase of Euphorbia tirucalli. The site-specific mutants F416V and F416M showed nearly the same enzymatic activities as the wild type, indicating that π-electrons are not needed for the catalytic reaction. However, the F416A mutant yielded a large amount of the tetracyclic dammarane skeleton, with decreased production of β-amyrin. This indicates that the Phe416 residue is located near the D-ring formation site and works to position the oxidosqualene substrate correctly within the reaction cavity. On the other hand, the major catalysis-related function of the Tyr259 and Trp257 residues is to yield their π-electrons to the cationic intermediates. The Y259F variant showed nearly equivalent activity to that of the wild type, but aliphatic mutants such as the Ala, Val, and Leu variants showed significantly decreased the activity and yielded the tetracyclic dammarane scaffold, strongly demonstrating that the Tyr259 residue stabilizes the baccharenyl secondary cation via cation–π interaction. The aliphatic variants of Trp257 exhibited remarkably decreased enzymatic activity, and lupeol was produced in a high production ratio, indicating that Trp257 stabilizes the oleanyl cation via cation–π interaction. The aromatic Phe and Tyr mutants exhibited high activities owing to their more increased π-electron density relative to that of the aliphatic mutants, but lupeol was produced in a significantly high yield besides β-amyrin. The Trp residue is likely to be responsible for the robust binding of Me-30 through CH–π interaction. The decreased π-electron density of the Phe and Tyr mutants compared to that of Trp would have resulted in the high production of lupeol.