Structure-function mapping of key determinants for hydrocarbon biosynthesis by squalene and squalene synthase-like enzymes from the green alga Botryococcus braunii race B

Biochemistry. 2014 Dec 9;53(48):7570-81. doi: 10.1021/bi501264s. Epub 2014 Nov 26.


Squalene and botryococcene are branched-chain, triterpene compounds that arise from the head-to-head condensation of two molecules of farnesyl diphosphate to yield 1'-1 and 1'-3 linkages, respectively. The enzymes that catalyze their formation have attracted considerable interest from the medical field as potential drug targets and the renewable energy sector for metabolic engineering efforts. Recently, the enzymes responsible for botryococcene and squalene biosynthesis in the green alga Botryococcus braunii race B were characterized. To better understand how the specificity for the 1'-1 and 1'-3 linkages was controlled, we attempted to identify the functional residues and/or domains responsible for this step in the catalytic cascade. Existing crystal structures for the mammalian squalene synthase and Staphylococcus dehydrosqualene synthase enzymes were exploited to develop molecular models for the B. braunii botryococcene and squalene synthase enzymes. Residues within the active sites that could mediate catalytic specificity were identified, and reciprocal mutants were created in an attempt to interconvert the reaction product specificity of the enzymes. We report here the identification of several amino acid positions contributing to the rearrangement of the cyclopropyl intermediate to squalene, but these same positions do not appear to be sufficient to account for the cyclopropyl rearrangement to give botryococcene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algal Proteins / chemistry*
  • Algal Proteins / genetics
  • Algal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Catalytic Domain
  • Chlorophyta / enzymology*
  • Chlorophyta / genetics
  • Farnesyl-Diphosphate Farnesyltransferase / chemistry*
  • Farnesyl-Diphosphate Farnesyltransferase / genetics
  • Farnesyl-Diphosphate Farnesyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Squalene / chemistry
  • Squalene / metabolism


  • Algal Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Squalene
  • Farnesyl-Diphosphate Farnesyltransferase