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Development of an NADPH-Dependent Homophenylalanine Dehydrogenase by Protein Engineering

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journal contribution
posted on 17.01.2014, 00:00 by Han Li, James C. Liao
l-Homophenylalanine is a nonproteinogenic amino acid and can be used as a versatile pharmaceutical intermediate. Production of l-homophenylalanine involves amination of the keto acid precursor 2-oxo-4-phenylbutyric acid (2-OPBA), which can be accomplished by bioenzymatic processes. Current biocatalysts for this reaction include transaminases and NADH-dependent phenylalanine dehydrogenases, which are not optimal for metabolic engineering of whole-cell biocatalysis. Here, we report the development of an NADPH-dependent homophenylalanine dehydrogenase by engineering the NADPH-dependent glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) from Escherichia coli, which provides a new tool for in vitro catalysis and in vivo metabolic engineering. We took a stepwise substrate walking strategy: the first round directed evolution switched GDH’s substrate specificity from its natural substrate 2-ketoglutarate to the intermediate target phenylpyruvate, which has similar structure as 2-OPBA; and the second round further improved the enzyme’s catalytic efficiency toward the final target 2-OPBA. Compared to wild type GDH, the catalytic efficiency (kcat/Km) of the final mutant was ∼100 fold higher for 2-OPBA and ∼3000 fold lower for the original substrate 2-ketoglutarate. When overexpressed in E. coli, the engineered GDH aminated 2-OPBA to l-homophenylalanine more effectively than the transaminases and NADH-dependent phenylalanine dehydrogenase, possibly because it utilizes the strong anabolic driving force NADPH under aerobic condition.