American Chemical Society
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Tailoring Tryptophan Synthase TrpB for Selective Quaternary Carbon Bond Formation

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journal contribution
posted on 2019-12-06, 18:37 authored by Markus Dick, Nicholas S. Sarai, Michael W. Martynowycz, Tamir Gonen, Frances H. Arnold
We previously engineered the β-subunit of tryptophan synthase (TrpB), which catalyzes the condensation of l-serine and indole to l-tryptophan, to synthesize a range of noncanonical amino acids from l-serine and indole derivatives or other nucleo­philes. Here we employ directed evolution to engineer TrpB to accept 3-substituted oxindoles and form C–C bonds leading to new quaternary stereocenters. Initially, the variants that could use 3-substituted oxindoles preferentially formed N–C bonds on N1 of the substrate. Protecting N1 encouraged evolution toward C-alkylation, which persisted when protection was removed. Six generations of directed evolution resulted in TrpB Pfquat with a 400-fold improvement in activity for alkylation of 3-substituted oxindoles and the ability to selectively form a new, all-carbon quaternary stereocenter at the γ-position of the amino acid products. The enzyme can also alkylate and form all-carbon quaternary stereocenters on structurally similar lactones and ketones, where it exhibits excellent regio­selectivity for the tertiary carbon. The configurations of the γ-stereocenters of two of the products were determined via microcrystal electron diffraction (MicroED), and we report the MicroED structure of a small molecule obtained using the Falcon III direct electron detector. Highly thermostable and expressed at >500 mg/L E. coli culture, TrpB Pfquat offers an efficient, sustainable, and selective platform for the construction of diverse noncanonical amino acids bearing all-carbon quaternary stereocenters.