Biosynthesis of plant tetrahydroisoquinoline alkaloids through an imine reductase route†
Herein, we report a biocatalytic approach to synthesize plant tetrahydroisoquinoline alkaloids (THIQAs) from dihydroisoquinoline (DHIQ) precursors using imine reductases and N-methyltransferase (NMT). The imine reductase IR45 was engineered to significantly expand its substrate specificity, enabling efficient and stereoselective conversion of 1-phenyl and 1-benzyl 6,7-dimethoxy-DHIQs into the corresponding (S)-tetrahydroisoquinolines (S-THIQs). Coclaurine N-methyltransferase (CNMT) was able to further efficiently convert these (S)-THIQ intermediates into (S)-THIQAs. By assembling IRED, CNMT, and glucose dehydrogenase (GDH) in one reaction, we effectively constituted two artificial biosynthetic pathways in Escherichia coli and successfully applied them to the production of five (S)-THIQAs. This highly efficient (100% yield from DHIQs) and easily tailorable (adding other genes) biosynthetic approach will be useful for producing a variety of plant THIQAs.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2019 Chemical Science HOT Article Collection