Desaturation reactions catalyzed by soluble methane monooxygenase

Yi Jin, John D. Lipscomb

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Soluble methane monooxygenase (MMO) is shown to be capable of catalyzing desaturation reactions in addition to the usual hydroxylation and epoxidation reactions. Dehydrogenated products are generated from MMO-catalyzed oxidation of certain substrates including ethylbenzene and cyclohexadienes. In the reaction of ethylbenzene, desaturation of ethyl C-H occurred along with the conventional hydroxylations of ethyl and phenyl C-Hs. As a result, styrene is formed together with ethylphenols and phenylethanols. Similarly, when 1,3- and 1,4-cyclohexadienes were used as substrates, benzene was detected as a product in addition to the corresponding alcohols and epoxides. In all cases, reaction conditions were found to significantly affect the distribution among the different products. This new activity of MMO is postulated to be associated with the chemical properties of the substrates rather than fundamental changes in the nature of the oxygen and C-H activation chemistries. The formation of the desaturated products is rationalized by formation of a substrate cationic intermediate, possibly via a radical precursor. The cationic species is then proposed to partition between recombination (alcohol formation) and elimination (alkene production) pathways. This novel function of MMO indicates close mechanistic kinship between the hydroxylation and desaturation reactions catalyzed by the nonheme diiron clusters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)717-725
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Inorganic Chemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This work was sponsored by National Institutes of Health Grant GM40466 (to J.D.L.). The authors wish to thank Dr. Lawrence Que, Jr. and Dr. Cheal Kim for many useful discussions and providing data concerning the reactions of the model system prior to publication.


  • Dehydrogenation
  • Desaturation
  • Diiron cluster
  • Hydroxylation
  • Methane monooxygenase


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