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Eur J Biochem. 1999 Jun;262(2):435-46.

Optimized expression and catalytic properties of a wheat obtusifoliol 14alpha-demethylase (CYP51) expressed in yeast. Complementation of erg11Delta yeast mutants by plant CYP51.

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Département dEnzymologie Cellulaire et Moléculaire, Institut de Biologie Moléculaire des Plantes, Strasbourg, France.


CYP51s form the only family of P450 proteins conserved in evolution from prokaryotes to fungi, plants and mammals. In all eukaryotes, CYP51s catalyse 14alpha-demethylation of sterols. We have recently isolated two CYP51 cDNAs from sorghum [Bak, S., Kahn, R.A., Olsen, C. E. & Halkier, B.A. (1997) Plant J. 11, 191-201] and wheat [Cabello-Hurtado, F., Zimmerlin, A., Rahier, A., Taton, M., DeRose, R., Nedelkina, S., Batard, Y., Durst, F., Pallett, K.E. & Werck-Reichhart, D. (1997) Biophys. Biochem. Res. Commun. 230, 381-385]. Wheat and sorghum CYP51 proteins show a high identity (92%) compared with their identity with their fungal and mammalian orthologues (32-39%). Data obtained with plant microsomes have previously suggested that differences in primary sequences reflect differences in sterol pathways and CYP51 substrate specificities between animals, fungi and plants. To investigate more thoroughly the properties of the plant CYP51, the wheat enzyme was expressed in yeast strains overexpressing different P450 reductases as a fusion with either yeast or plant (sorghum) membrane targeting sequences. The endogenous sterol demethylase gene (ERG11) was then disrupted. A sorghum-wheat fusion protein expressed with the Arabidopsis thaliana reductase ATR1 showed the highest level of expression and activity. The expression induced a marked proliferation of microsomal membranes so as to obtain 70 nmol P450.(L culture)-1, with CYP51 representing 1.5% of microsomal protein. Without disruption of the ERG11 gene, the expression level was fivefold reduced. CYP51 from wheat complemented the ERG11 disruption, as the modified yeasts did not need supplementation with exogenous ergosterol and grew normally under aerobic conditions. The fusion plant enzyme catalysed 14alpha-demethylation of obtusifoliol very actively (Km,app = 197 microm, kcat = 1.2 min-1) and with very strict substrate specificity. No metabolism of lanosterol and eburicol, the substrates of the fungal and mammalian CYP51s, nor metabolism of herbicides and fatty acids was detected in the recombinant yeast microsomes. Surprisingly lanosterol (Ks = 2.2 microM) and eburicol (Ks = 2.5 microm) were found to bind the active site of the plant enzyme with affinities higher than that for obtusifoliol (Ks = 289 microM), giving typical type-I spectra. The amplitudes of these spectra, however, suggested that lanosterol and eburicol were less favourably positioned to be metabolized than obtusifoliol. The recombinant enzyme was also used to test the relative binding constants of two azole compounds, LAB170250F and gamma-ketotriazole, which were previously reported to be potent inhibitors of the plant enzyme. The Ks of plant CYP51 for LAB170250F (0.29 microM) and gamma-ketotriazole (0.40 microM) calculated from the type-II sp2 nitrogen-binding spectra were in better agreement with their reported effects as plant CYP51 inhibitors than values previously determined with plant microsomes. This optimized expression system thus provides an excellent tool for detailed enzymological and mechanistic studies, and for improving the selectivity of inhibitory molecules.

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