Multisite Prenylation of 4‑Substituted Tryptophans by Dimethylallyltryptophan Synthase

The aromatic prenyltransferase dimethylallyltryptophan synthase in Claviceps purpurea catalyzes the normal prenylation of tryptophan at C4 of the indole nucleus in the first committed step of ergot alkaloid biosynthesis. 4-Methyltryptophan is a competitive inhibitor of the enzyme that has been used in kinetic studies. Upon investigation of background activity during incubations of 4-methyltryptophan with dimethylallyl diphosphate, we found that the analogue was an alternate substrate, which gave four products. The structures of three of these compounds were established by 1H NMR and 2D NMR studies and revealed that dimethylallyltryptophan synthase catalyzed both normal and reverse prenylation at C3 of the indole ring and normal prenylation of N1. Similarly, 4-methoxytryptophan was an alternate substrate, giving normal prenylation at C5 as the major product. 4-Aminotryptophan, another alternate substrate, gave normal prenylation at C5 and C7. The ability of dimethylallyltryptophan synthase to prenylate at five different sites on the indole nucleus, with normal and reverse prenylation at one of the sites, is consistent with a dissociative electrophilic alkylation of the indole ring, where orientation of the substrates within the active site and substituent electronic effects determine the position and type of prenylation. These results suggest a common mechanism for prenylation of tryptophan by all of the members of the structurally related dimethylallyltryptophan synthase family.