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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2007 Sep;73(18):5832-9. Epub 2007 Jul 20.

Discovery of a novel styrene monooxygenase originating from the metagenome.

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  • 1Laboratory of Biochemistry, Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute, University of Groningen, Nijenborgh 4, 9747 AG Groningen, The Netherlands.


Oxygenases form an interesting class of biocatalysts, as they typically perform oxygenations with exquisite chemo-, regio-, and/or enantioselectivity. It has been observed that, once heterologously expressed in Escherichia coli, some oxygenases are able to form the blue pigment indigo. We have exploited this characteristic to screen a metagenomic library derived from loam soil and identified a novel oxygenase. This oxygenase shows 50% sequence identity with styrene monooxygenases from pseudomonads (StyA). Only a limited number of homologs can be found in the genome sequence database, indicating that this biocatalyst is a member of a relatively small family of bacterial monooxygenases. The newly identified monooxygenase catalyzes the epoxidation of styrene and styrene derivatives and forms the corresponding (S)-epoxides with excellent enantiomeric excess [e.g., (S)-styrene oxide is formed with >99% enantiomeric excess, ee] and therefore is named styrene monooxgenase subunit A (SmoA). SmoA shows high enantioselectivity towards aromatic sulfides [e.g., (R)-ethyl phenyl sulfoxide is formed with 92% ee]. This excellent enantioselectivity in combination with the moderate sequence identity forms a clear indication that SmoA from a metagenomic origin represents a new enzyme within the small family of styrene monooxygenases.

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