Germacrene A is a product of the aristolochene synthase-mediated conversion of farnesylpyrophosphate to aristolochene

J Am Chem Soc. 2002 Oct 2;124(39):11636-41. doi: 10.1021/ja020762p.


The biosynthesis of several sesquiterpenes has been proposed to proceed via germacrene A. However, to date, the production of germacrene A has not been proven directly for any of the sesquiterpene synthases for which it was postulated as an intermediate. We demonstrate here for the first time that significant amounts of germacrene A (7.5% of the total amount of products) are indeed released from wild-type aristolochene synthase (AS) from Penicillium roqueforti. Germacrene A was identified through direct GC-MS comparison to an authentic sample and through production of beta-elemene in a thermal Cope rearrangement. AS also produced a small amount of valencene through deprotonation of C6 rather than C8 in the final step of the reaction. On the basis of the X-ray structure of AS, Tyr 92 was postulated to be the active-site acid responsible for protonation of germacrene A (Caruthers, J. M.; Kang, I.; Rynkiewicz, M. J.; Cane, D. E.; Christianson, D. W. J. Biol. Chem. 2000, 275, 25533-25539). The CD spectra of a mutant protein, ASY92F, in which Tyr 92 was replaced by Phe, and of AS were very similar. ASY92F was approximately 0.1% as active as nonmutated recombinant AS. The steady-state kinetic parameters were measured as 0.138 min(-1) and 0.189 mM for k(cat) and K(M), respectively. Similar to a mutant protein of 5-epi-aristolochene (Rising, K. A.; Starks, C. M.; Noel, J. P.; Chappell, J. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2000, 122, 1861-1866), the mutant released significant amounts of germacrene A (approximately 29%). ASY92F also produced various amounts of a further five hydrocarbons of molecular weight 204, valencene, beta-(E)-farnesene, alpha- and beta-selinene, and selina-4,11-diene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Circular Dichroism
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Isomerases / biosynthesis
  • Isomerases / genetics
  • Isomerases / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Penicillium / enzymology
  • Penicillium / metabolism
  • Polyisoprenyl Phosphates / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Sesquiterpenes / metabolism*
  • Tyrosine / metabolism


  • Polyisoprenyl Phosphates
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • aristolochene
  • Tyrosine
  • farnesyl pyrophosphate
  • Isomerases
  • aristolochene synthase