Side-Chain Pruning Has Limited Impact on Substrate Preference in a Promiscuous Enzyme

ACS Catal. 2018 Dec 7;8(12):11648-11656. doi: 10.1021/acscatal.8b03793. Epub 2018 Oct 30.


Detoxifying enzymes such as flavin-containing monooxygenases deal with a huge array of highly diverse xenobiotics and toxic compounds. In addition to being of high physiological relevance, these drug-metabolizing enzymes are useful catalysts for synthetic chemistry. Despite the wealth of studies, the molecular basis of their relaxed substrate selectivity remains an open question. Here, we addressed this issue by applying a cumulative alanine mutagenesis approach to cyclohexanone monooxygenase from Thermocrispum municipale, a flavin-dependent Baeyer-Villiger monooxygenase which we chose as a model system because of its pronounced thermostability and substrate promiscuity. Simultaneous removal of up to eight noncatalytic active-site side chains including four phenylalanines had no effect on protein folding, thermostability, and cofactor loading. We observed a linear decrease in activity, rather than a selectivity switch, and attributed this to a less efficient catalytic environment in the enlarged active-site space. Time-resolved kinetic studies confirmed this interpretation. We also determined the crystal structure of the enzyme in complex with a mimic of the reaction intermediate that shows an unaltered overall protein conformation. These findings led us to propose that this cyclohexanone monooxygenase may lack a distinct substrate selection mechanism altogether. We speculate that the main or exclusive function of the protein shell in promiscuous enzymes might be the stabilization and accessibility of their very reactive catalytic intermediates.