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Science. 1997 Sep 19;277(5333):1820-4.

Crystal structure of pentalenene synthase: mechanistic insights on terpenoid cyclization reactions in biology.

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Roy and Diana Vagelos Laboratories, Department of Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6323, USA.


The crystal structure of pentalenene synthase at 2.6 angstrom resolution reveals critical active site features responsible for the cyclization of farnesyl diphosphate into the tricyclic hydrocarbon pentalenene. Metal-triggered substrate ionization initiates catalysis, and the alpha-barrel active site serves as a template to channel and stabilize the conformations of reactive carbocation intermediates through a complex cyclization cascade. The core active site structure of the enzyme may be preserved among the greater family of terpenoid synthases, possibly implying divergence from a common ancestral synthase to satisfy biological requirements for increasingly diverse natural products.

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