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Biochemistry. 2004 Nov 23;43(46):14712-21.

EpoK, a cytochrome P450 involved in biosynthesis of the anticancer agents epothilones A and B. Substrate-mediated rescue of a P450 enzyme.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, 600 16th Street, San Francisco, California 94143-2280, USA.


The epothilones are a new class of highly promising anticancer agents with a mode of action akin to that of paclitaxel but with distinct advantages over that drug. The principal natural compounds are epothilones A and B, which have an epoxide in the macrocyclic lactone ring, and C and D, which have a double bond instead of the epoxide group. The epoxidation of epothilones C and D to A and B, respectively, is mediated by EpoK, a cytochrome P450 enzyme encoded in the epothilone gene cluster. Here we report high-yield expression of EpoK, characterization of the protein, demonstration that the natural substrate can prevent-and even reverse-denaturation of the protein, identification of ligands and surrogate substrates, development of a high-throughput fluorescence activity assay based on the H(2)O(2)-dependent oxidation of 7-ethoxy-4-trifluoromethylcoumarin, and identification of effective inhibitors of the enzyme. These results will facilitate improvements in the yields of epothilones C and D and the engineering of EpoK to prepare novel epothilone analogues. Furthermore, the finding that the denatured enzyme is rescued by the substrate offers a potential paradigm for control of the P450 catalytic function.

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