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Chembiochem. 2012 Jan 2;13(1):137-48. doi: 10.1002/cbic.201100579. Epub 2011 Nov 23.

Directed evolution strategies for enantiocomplementary haloalkane dehalogenases: from chemical waste to enantiopure building blocks.

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Biotransformation and Biocatalysis, Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute, University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.


We used directed evolution to obtain enantiocomplementary haloalkane dehalogenase variants that convert the toxic waste compound 1,2,3-trichloropropane (TCP) into highly enantioenriched (R)- or (S)-2,3-dichloropropan-1-ol, which can easily be converted into optically active epichlorohydrins-attractive intermediates for the synthesis of enantiopure fine chemicals. A dehalogenase with improved catalytic activity but very low enantioselectivity was used as the starting point. A strategy that made optimal use of the limited capacity of the screening assay, which was based on chiral gas chromatography, was developed. We used pair-wise site-saturation mutagenesis (SSM) of all 16 noncatalytic active-site residues during the initial two rounds of evolution. The resulting best R- and S-enantioselective variants were further improved in two rounds of site-restricted mutagenesis (SRM), with incorporation of carefully selected sets of amino acids at a larger number of positions, including sites that are more distant from the active site. Finally, the most promising mutations and positions were promoted to a combinatorial library by using a multi-site mutagenesis protocol with restricted codon sets. To guide the design of partly undefined (ambiguous) codon sets for these restricted libraries we employed structural information, the results of multiple sequence alignments, and knowledge from earlier rounds. After five rounds of evolution with screening of only 5500 clones, we obtained two strongly diverged haloalkane dehalogenase variants that give access to (R)-epichlorohydrin with 90 % ee and to (S)-epichlorohydrin with 97 % ee, containing 13 and 17 mutations, respectively, around their active sites.

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