The flavoenzyme vanillyl-alcohol oxidase was subjected to random mutagenesis to generate mutants with enhanced reactivity to creosol (2-methoxy-4-methylphenol). The vanillyl-alcohol oxidase-mediated conversion of creosol proceeds via a two-step process in which the initially formed vanillyl alcohol (4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzyl alcohol) is oxidized to the widely used flavor compound vanillin (4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde). The first step of this reaction is extremely slow due to the formation of a covalent FAD N-5-creosol adduct. After a single round of error-prone PCR, seven mutants were generated with increased reactivity to creosol. The single-point mutants I238T, F454Y, E502G, and T505S showed an up to 40-fold increase in catalytic efficiency (k(cat)/K-m) with creosol compared with the wild-type enzyme. This enhanced reactivity was due to a lower stability of the covalent flavin-substrate adduct, thereby promoting vanillin formation. The catalytic efficiencies of the mutants were also enhanced for other ortho-substituted 4-methylphenols, but not for p-cresol (4-methylphenol). The replaced amino acid residues are not located within a distance of direct interaction with the substrate, and the determined three-dimensional structures of the mutant enzymes are highly similar to that of the wild-type enzyme. These results clearly show the importance of remote residues, not readily predicted by rational design, for the substrate specificity of enzymes.
- directed evolution
- cresol methylhydroxylase
- catalytic mechanism
van den Heuvel, R. H. H., van den Berg, W. A. M., Rovida, S., & van Berkel, W. J. H. (2004). Laboratory-evolved vanillyl-alcohol oxidase produces natural vanillin. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 279(32), 33492-33500. https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M312968200