A Radical Clock Probe Uncouples H Atom Abstraction from Thioether Cross-Link Formation by the Radical S‑Adenosyl‑l‑methionine Enzyme SkfB

Sporulation killing factor (SKF) is a ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptide (RiPP) produced by Bacillus. SKF contains a thioether cross-link between the α-carbon at position 40 and the thiol of Cys32, introduced by a member of the radical S-adenosyl-l-methionine (SAM) superfamily, SkfB. Radical SAM enzymes employ a 4Fe–4S cluster to bind and reductively cleave SAM to generate a 5′-deoxyadenosyl radical. SkfB utilizes this radical intermediate to abstract the α-H atom at Met40 to initiate cross-linking. In addition to the cluster that binds SAM, SkfB also has an auxiliary cluster, the function of which is not known. We demonstrate that a substrate analogue with a cyclopropylglycine (CPG) moiety replacing the wild-type Met40 side chain forgoes thioether cross-linking for an alternative radical ring opening of the CPG side chain. The ring opening reaction also takes place with a catalytically inactive SkfB variant in which the auxiliary Fe–S cluster is absent. Therefore, the CPG-containing peptide uncouples H atom abstraction from thioether bond formation, limiting the role of the auxiliary cluster to promoting thioether cross-link formation. CPG proves to be a valuable tool for uncoupling H atom abstraction from peptide modification in RiPP maturases and demonstrates potential to leverage RS enzyme reactivity to create noncanonical amino acids.