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J Biol Chem. 2000 Jul 28;275(30):23398-405.

Molecular characterization of the S-adenosyl-L-methionine:3'-hydroxy-N-methylcoclaurine 4'-O-methyltransferase involved in isoquinoline alkaloid biosynthesis in Coptis japonica.

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  • 1Division of Applied Life Science, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan.


S-adenosyl-L-methionine:3'-hydroxy-N-methylcoclaurine 4'-O-methyltransferase (4'-OMT) catalyzes the conversion of 3'-hydroxy-N-methylcoclaurine to reticuline, an important intermediate in synthesizing isoquinoline alkaloids. In an earlier step in the biosynthetic pathway to reticuline, another O-methyltransferase, S-adenosyl-L-methionine:norcoclaurine 6-O-methyltransferase (6-OMT), catalyzes methylation of the 6-hydroxyl group of norcoclaurine. We isolated two kinds of cDNA clones that correspond to the internal amino acid sequences of a 6-OMT/4'-OMT preparation from cultured Coptis japonica cells. Heterologously expressed proteins had 6-OMT or 4'-OMT activities, indicative that each cDNA encodes a different enzyme. 4'-OMT was purified using recombinant protein, and its enzymological properties were characterized. It had enzymological characteristics similar to those of 6-OMT; the active enzyme was the dimer of the subunit, no divalent cations were required for activity, and there was inhibition by Fe(2+), Cu(2+), Co(2+), Zn(2+), or Ni(2+), but none by the SH reagent. 4'-OMT clearly had different substrate specificity. It methylated (R,S)-6-O-methylnorlaudanosoline, as well as (R, S)-laudanosoline and (R,S)-norlaudanosoline. Laudanosoline, an N-methylated substrate, was a much better substrate for 4'-OMT than norlaudanosoline. 6-OMT methylated norlaudanosoline and laudanosoline equally. Further characterization of the substrate saturation and product inhibition kinetics indicated that 4'-OMT follows an ordered Bi Bi mechanism, whereas 6-OMT follows a Ping-Pong Bi Bi mechanism. The molecular evolution of these two related O-methyltransferases is discussed.

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