Insights into the Mechanism of Phenylacetate Decarboxylase (PhdB), a Toluene-Producing Glycyl Radical Enzyme

Andria V. Rodrigues, Dean J. Tantillo, Aindrila Mukhopadhyay, Aindrila Mukhopadhyay, Jay Keasling, Harry R. Beller*

*Corresponding author for this work

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We recently reported the discovery of phenylacetate decarboxylase (PhdB), representing one of only ten glycyl-radical-enzyme reaction types known, and a promising biotechnological tool for first-time biochemical synthesis of toluene from renewable resources. Here, we used experimental and computational data to evaluate the plausibility of three candidate PhdB mechanisms, involving either attack at the phenylacetate methylene carbon or carboxyl group [via H-atom abstraction from COOH or single-electron oxidation of COO- (Kolbe-type decarboxylation)]. In vitro experimental data included assays with F-labeled phenylacetate, kinetic studies, and tests with site-directed PhdB mutants; computational data involved estimation of reaction energetics using density functional theory (DFT). The DFT results indicated that all three mechanisms are thermodynamically challenging (beyond the range of many known enzymes in terms of endergonicity or activation energy barrier), reflecting the formidable demands on PhdB for catalysis of this reaction. Evidence that PhdB was able to bind α,α-difluorophenylacetate but was unable to catalyze its decarboxylation supported the enzyme’s abstraction of a methylene H atom. Diminished activity of H327A and Y691F mutants was consistent with proposed proton donor roles for His327 and Tyr691. Collectively, these and other data most strongly support PhdB attack at the methylene carbon.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)663-671
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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