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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Sep 23;105(38):14738-43. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0805645105. Epub 2008 Sep 16.

Revealing the catalytic potential of an acyl-ACP desaturase: tandem selective oxidation of saturated fatty acids.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Brookhaven National Laboratory, 50 Bell Avenue, Upton, NY 11973, USA.


It is estimated that plants contain thousands of fatty acid structures, many of which arise by the action of membrane-bound desaturases and desaturase-like enzymes. The details of "unusual" e.g., hydroxyl or conjugated, fatty acid formation remain elusive, because these enzymes await structural characterization. However, soluble plant acyl-ACP (acyl carrier protein) desaturases have been studied in far greater detail but typically only catalyze desaturation (dehydrogenation) reactions. We describe a mutant of the castor acyl-ACP desaturase (T117R/G188L/D280K) that converts stearoyl-ACP into the allylic alcohol trans-isomer (E)-10-18:1-9-OH via a cis isomer (Z)-9-18:1 intermediate. The use of regiospecifically deuterated substrates shows that the conversion of (Z)-9-18:1 substrate to (E)-10-18:1-9-OH product proceeds via hydrogen abstraction at C-11 and highly regioselective hydroxylation (>97%) at C-9. (18)O-labeling studies show that the hydroxyl oxygen in the reaction product is exclusively derived from molecular oxygen. The mutant enzyme converts (E)-9-18:1-ACP into two major products, (Z)-10-18:1-9-OH and the conjugated linolenic acid isomer, (E)-9-(Z)-11-18:2. The observed product profiles can be rationalized by differences in substrate binding as dictated by the curvature of substrate channel at the active site. That three amino acid substitutions, remote from the diiron active site, expand the range of reaction outcomes to mimic some of those associated with the membrane-bound desaturase family underscores the latent potential of O(2)-dependent nonheme diiron enzymes to mediate a diversity of functionalization chemistry. In summary, this study contributes detailed mechanistic insights into factors that govern the highly selective production of unusual fatty acids.

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