Chembiochem : a European journal of chemical biology

An efficient route to selective bio-oxidation catalysts: an iterative approach comprising modeling, diversification, and screening, based on CYP102A1.

PMID 21591046


Perillyl alcohol is the terminal hydroxylation product of the cheap and readily available terpene, limonene. It has high potential as an anti-tumor substance, but is of limited availability. In principle, cytochrome P450 monooxygenases, such as the self-sufficient CYP102A1, are promising catalysts for the oxidation of limonene or other inert hydrocarbons. The wild-type enzyme converts (4R)-limonene to four different oxidation products; however, terminal hydroxylation at the allylic C7 is not observed. Here we describe a generic strategy to engineer this widely used enzyme to hydroxylate exclusively the exposed, but chemically less reactive, primary C7 in the presence of other reactive positions. The approach presented here turns CYP102A1 into a highly selective catalyst with a shifted product spectra by successive rounds of modeling, the design of small focused libraries, and screening. In the first round a minimal CYP102A1 mutant library was rationally designed. It contained variants with improved or strongly shifted regio-, stereo- and chemoselectivity, compared to wild-type. From this library the variant with the highest perillyl alcohol ratio was fine-tuned by two additional rounds of molecular modeling, diversification, and screening. In total only 29 variants needed to be screened to identify the triple mutant A264V/A238V/L437F that converts (4R)-limonene to perillyl alcohol with a selectivity of 97 %. Focusing mutagenesis on a small number of relevant positions identified by computational approaches is the key for efficient screening for enzyme selectivity.