Stepwise O‑Atom Transfer in Heme-Based Tryptophan Dioxygenase: Role of Substrate Ammonium in Epoxide Ring Opening

Heme-based tryptophan dioxygenases are established immunosuppressive metalloproteins with significant biomedical interest. Here, we synthesized two mechanistic probes to specifically test if the α-amino group of the substrate directly participates in a critical step of the O atom transfer during catalysis in human tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase (TDO). Substitution of the nitrogen atom of the substrate to a carbon (probe 1) or oxygen (probe 2) slowed the catalytic step following the first O atom transfer such that transferring the second O atom becomes less likely to occur, although the dioxygenated products were observed with both probes. A monooxygenated product was also produced from probe 2 in a significant quantity. Analysis of this new product by HPLC coupled UV–vis spectroscopy, high-resolution mass spectrometry, 1H NMR, 13C NMR, HSQC, HMBC, and infrared (IR) spectroscopies concluded that this monooxygenated product is a furoindoline compound derived from an unstable epoxyindole intermediate. These results prove that small molecules can manipulate the stepwise O atom transfer reaction of TDO and provide a showcase for a tunable mechanism by synthetic compounds. The product analysis results corroborate the presence of a substrate-based epoxyindole intermediate during catalysis and provide the first substantial experimental evidence for the involvement of the substrate α-amino group in the epoxide ring-opening step during catalysis. This combined synthetic, biochemical, and biophysical study establishes the catalytic role of the α-amino group of the substrate during the O atom transfer reactions and thus represents a substantial advance to the mechanistic comprehension of the heme-based tryptophan dioxygenases.