Substrate trapping in crystals of the thiolase olea identifies three channels that enable long chain olefin biosynthesis

Brandon R. Goblirsch, Matthew R. Jensen, Fatuma A. Mohamed, Lawrence P. Wackett, Carrie M. Wilmot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Phylogenetically diverse microbes that produce long chain, olefinic hydrocarbons have received much attention as possible sources of renewable energy biocatalysts. One enzyme that is critical for this process is OleA, a thiolase superfamily enzyme that condenses two fatty acyl-CoA substrates to produce a β-ketoacid product and initiates the biosynthesis of long chain olefins in bacteria. Thiolases typically utilize a ping-pong mechanism centered on an active site cysteine residue. Reaction with the first substrate produces a covalent cysteine-thioester tethered acyl group that is transferred to the second substrate through formation of a carbon-carbon bond. Although the basics of thiolase chemistry are precedented, the mechanism by which OleA accommodates two substrates with extended carbon chains and a coenzyme moiety - unusual for a thiolase - are unknown. Gaining insights into this process could enable manipulation of the system for large scale olefin production with hydrocarbon chains lengths equivalent to those of fossil fuels. In this study, mutagenesis of the active site cysteine in Xanthomonas campestris OleA (Cys143) enabled trapping of two catalytically relevant species in crystals. In the resulting structures, long chain alkyl groups (C12 and C14) and phosphopantetheinate define three substrate channels in a T-shaped configuration, explaining how OleA coordinates its two substrates and product. The C143A OleA co-crystal structure possesses a single bound acyl-CoA representing the Michaelis complex with the first substrate, whereas the C143S co-crystal structure contains both acyl-CoA and fatty acid, defining how a second substrate binds to the acyl-enzyme intermediate. An active site glutamate (Gluβ117) is positioned to deprotonate bound acyl-CoA and initiate carbon-carbon bond formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26698-26706
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number52
StatePublished - Dec 23 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Chemistry Biology Interface Training Grant GM-008700 (to M. R. J.), the Department of Energy (Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy) under Award DE-AR0000007 (to L. P. W.), a University of Minnesota Biotechnology Institute grant (to C. M. W. and L. P. W.), and University of Minnesota Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (to B. R. G.). National Institute of General Medical Sciences and National Cancer Institute Collaborative Access Team at the APS has been funded in whole or in part with federal funds from the National Cancer Institute (Grant ACB-12002) and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (Grant AGM-12006).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.


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