Altering small and medium alcohol selectivity in the wax ester synthase

Brett M Barney, Janet M. Ohlert, Jacobe G. Timler, Amelia M. Lijewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The bifunctional wax ester synthase/acyl-coenzyme A:diacylglycerol acyltransferase (WS/DGAT or wax ester synthase) catalyzes the terminal reaction in the bacterial wax ester biosynthetic pathway, utilizing a range of alcohols and fatty acyl-CoAs to synthesize the corresponding wax ester. The wild-type wax ester synthase Maqu_0168 from Marinobacter aquaeolei VT8 exhibits a preference for longer fatty alcohols, while applications with smaller alcohols would yield products with desired biotechnological properties. Small and medium chain length alcohol substrates are much poorer substrates for the native enzyme, which may hinder broad application of the wax ester synthase in many proposed biosynthetic schemes. Developing approaches to improve enzyme activity toward specific smaller alcohol substrates first requires a clear understanding of which amino acids of the primary sequences of these enzymes contribute to substrate specificity in the native enzyme. In this report, we surveyed a range of potential residues and identified the leucine at position 356 and methionine at position 405 in Maqu_0168 as residues that affected selectivity toward small, branched, and aromatic alcohols when substituted with different amino acids. This analysis provides evidence of residues that line the binding site for wax ester synthase, which will aid rational approaches to improve this enzyme with specific substrates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9675-9684
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Jul 24 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation to B.M.B. (Award Numbers 0968781 and CBET-1437758). Further support was provided through generous start-up funds through the University of Minnesota. We thank Eric Lenneman who assisted in the analysis of M. aquaeolei VT8 wax esters.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • Ethanol
  • Fatty acyl-CoA
  • Isoamyl alcohol
  • Wax ester synthase


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