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  1. Plastics pollution represents a global environmental crisis. In response, microbes are evolving the capacity to utilize synthetic polymers as carbon and energy sources. Recently, Ideonella sakaiensis was reported to secrete a two-enzyme system to deconstruct polyethylene terephthalate (PET) to its constituent monomers. Specifically, the I. sakaiensis PETase depolymerizes PET, liberating soluble products, including mono(2-hydroxyethyl) terephthalate (MHET), which is cleaved to terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol by MHETase. Here, we report a 1.6 Å resolution MHETase structure, illustrating that the MHETase core domain is similar to PETase, capped by a lid domain. Simulations of the catalytic itinerary predict that MHETase follows the canonical two-step serine hydrolase mechanism. Bioinformatics analysis suggests that MHETase evolved from ferulic acid esterases, and two homologous enzymes are shown to exhibit MHET turnover. Analysis of the two homologous enzymes and the MHETase S131G mutant demonstrates the importance of this residue for accommodation of MHET in the active site. We also demonstrate that the MHETase lid is crucial for hydrolysis of MHET and, furthermore, that MHETase does not turnover mono(2-hydroxyethyl)-furanoate or mono(2-hydroxyethyl)-isophthalate. A highly synergistic relationship between PETase and MHETase was observed for the conversion of amorphous PET film to monomers across all nonzero MHETase concentrations tested. Finally,more »we compare the performance of MHETase:PETase chimeric proteins of varying linker lengths, which all exhibit improved PET and MHET turnover relative to the free enzymes. Together, these results offer insights into the two-enzyme PET depolymerization system and will inform future efforts in the biological deconstruction and upcycling of mixed plastics.« less
  2. Abstract

    Microbial aromatic catabolism offers a promising approach to convert lignin, a vast source of renewable carbon, into useful products. Aryl-O-demethylation is an essential biochemical reaction to ultimately catabolize coniferyl and sinapyl lignin-derived aromatic compounds, and is often a key bottleneck for both native and engineered bioconversion pathways. Here, we report the comprehensive characterization of a promiscuous P450 aryl-O-demethylase, consisting of a cytochrome P450 protein from the family CYP255A (GcoA) and a three-domain reductase (GcoB) that together represent a new two-component P450 class. Though originally described as converting guaiacol to catechol, we show that this system efficiently demethylates both guaiacol and an unexpectedly wide variety of lignin-relevant monomers. Structural, biochemical, and computational studies of this novel two-component system elucidate the mechanism of its broad substrate specificity, presenting it as a new tool for a critical step in biological lignin conversion.