Archives of biochemistry and biophysics

Molecular cloning and characterization of (+)-epi-α-bisabolol synthase, catalyzing the first step in the biosynthesis of the natural sweetener, hernandulcin, in Lippia dulcis.

PMID 22867794


Hernandulcin, a C15 sesquiterpene ketone, is a natural sweetener isolated from the leaves of Lippia dulcis. It is a promising sugar substitute due to its safety and low caloric potential. However, the biosynthesis of hernandulcin in L. dulcis remains unknown. The first biochemical step of hernandulcin is the synthesis of (+)-epi-α-bisabolol from farnesyl diphosphate, which is presumed to be catalyzed by a unique sesquiterpene synthase in L. dulcis. In order to decipher hernandulcin biosynthesis, deep transcript sequencings (454 and Illumina) were performed, which facilitated the molecular cloning of five new sesquiterpene synthase cDNAs from L. dulcis. In vivo activity evaluation of these cDNAs in yeast identified them as the sesquiterpene synthases for α-copaene/δ-cadinene, bicyclogermacrene, β-caryophyllene, trans-α-bergamotene, and α-bisabolol. The engineered yeast could synthesize a significant amount (~0.3 mg per mL) of α-bisabolol in shake-flask cultivation. This efficient in vivo production was congruent with the competent kinetic properties of recombinant α-bisabolol synthase (K(m) 4.8 μM and k(cat) 0.04 s(-1)). Detailed chemical analyses of the biosynthesized α-bisabolol confirmed its configuration to be (+)-epi-α-bisabolol, the core skeleton of hernandulcin. These results demonstrated that enzymatic, stereoselective synthesis of (+)-epi-α-bisabolol can be achieved, promising the heterologous production of a natural sweetener, hernandulcin.