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Biochem Cell Biol. 2007 Jun;85(3):273-82.

A modern view of phenylalanine ammonia lyase.

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Department of Chemistry, Cape Breton University, 1250 Grand Lake Road, Sydney, NS B1P 6L2, Canada.

Erratum in

  • Biochem Cell Biol. 2007 Dec;85(6):759.


Phenylalanine ammonia lyase (PAL; E.C., which catalyses the biotransformation of L-phenylalanine to trans-cinnamic acid and ammonia, was first described in 1961 by Koukol and Conn. Since its discovery, much knowledge has been gathered with reference to the enzyme's catabolic role in microorganisms and its importance in the phenyl propanoid pathway of plants. The 3-dimensional structure of the enzyme has been characterized using X-ray crystallography. This has led to a greater understanding of the mechanism of PAL-catalyzed reactions, including the discovery of a recently described cofactor, 3,5-dihydro-5-methyldiene-4H-imidazol-4-one. In the past 3 decades, PAL has gained considerable significance in several clinical, industrial, and biotechnological applications. The reversal of the normal physiological reaction can be effectively employed in the production of optically pure L-phenylalanine, which is a precursor of the noncalorific sweetener aspartame (L-phenylalanyl-L-aspartyl methyl ester). The enzyme's natural ability to break down L-phenylalanine makes PAL a reliable treatment for the genetic condition phenylketonuria. In this mini-review, we discuss prominent details relating to the physiological role of PAL, the mechanism of catalysis, methods of determination and purification, enzyme kinetics, and enzyme activity in nonaqueous media. Two topics of current study on PAL, molecular biology and crystal structure, are also discussed.

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