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  1. Several bacteria possess components of catabolic pathways for the synthetic polyester poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET). These proceed by hydrolyzing the ester linkages of the polymer to its monomers, ethylene glycol and terephthalate (TPA), which are further converted into common metabolites. These pathways are crucial for genetically engineering microbes for PET upcycling, prompting interest in their fundamental biochemical and structural elucidation. Terephthalate dioxygenase (TPADO) and its cognate reductase make up a complex multimetalloenzyme system that dihydroxylates TPA, activating it for enzymatic decarboxylation to yield protocatechuic acid (PCA). Here, we report structural, biochemical, and bioinformatic analyses of TPADO. Together, these data illustrate the remarkable adaptation of TPADO to the TPA dianion as its preferred substrate, with small, protonatable ring 2-carbon substituents being among the few permitted substrate modifications. TPADO is a Rieske [2Fe2S] and mononuclear nonheme iron-dependent oxygenase (Rieske oxygenase) that shares low sequence similarity with most structurally characterized members of its family. Structural data show an α-helix–associated histidine side chain that rotates into an Fe (II)–coordinating position following binding of the substrate into an adjacent pocket. TPA interactions with side chains in this pocket were not conserved in homologs with different substrate preferences. The binding mode of the less symmetric 2-hydroxy-TPA substrate,more »the observation that PCA is its oxygenation product, and the close relationship of the TPADO α-subunit to that of anthranilate dioxygenase allowed us to propose a structure-based model for product formation. Future efforts to identify, evolve, or engineer TPADO variants with desirable properties will be enabled by the results described here.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 29, 2023
  2. 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
  3. Microbial conversion of aromatic compounds is an emerging and promising strategy for valorization of the plant biopolymer lignin. A critical and often rate-limiting reaction in aromatic catabolism is O -aryl-demethylation of the abundant aromatic methoxy groups in lignin to form diols, which enables subsequent oxidative aromatic ring-opening. Recently, a cytochrome P450 system, GcoAB, was discovered to demethylate guaiacol (2-methoxyphenol), which can be produced from coniferyl alcohol-derived lignin, to form catechol. However, native GcoAB has minimal ability to demethylate syringol (2,6-dimethoxyphenol), the analogous compound that can be produced from sinapyl alcohol-derived lignin. Despite the abundance of sinapyl alcohol-based lignin in plants, no pathway for syringol catabolism has been reported to date. Here we used structure-guided protein engineering to enable microbial syringol utilization with GcoAB. Specifically, a phenylalanine residue (GcoA-F169) interferes with the binding of syringol in the active site, and on mutation to smaller amino acids, efficient syringol O -demethylation is achieved. Crystallography indicates that syringol adopts a productive binding pose in the variant, which molecular dynamics simulations trace to the elimination of steric clash between the highly flexible side chain of GcoA-F169 and the additional methoxy group of syringol. Finally, we demonstrate in vivo syringol turnover in Pseudomonas putida KT2440more »with the GcoA-F169A variant. Taken together, our findings highlight the significant potential and plasticity of cytochrome P450 aromatic O -demethylases in the biological conversion of lignin-derived aromatic compounds.« less
  4. 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.