||The biotechnological revolution has made it possible to create enzymes for many reactions by directed evolution. However, because of the immense number of possibilities, the availability of enzymes that possess a basal level of the desired catalytic activity is a prerequisite for success. For new-to-nature reactions, artificial metalloenzymes (ARMs), which are rationally designed hybrids of proteins and catalytically active transition-metal complexes, can be such a starting point.
This Account details our efforts toward the creation of ARMs for the catalysis of new-to-nature reactions. Key to our approach is the notion that the binding of substrates, that is, effective molarity, is a key component to achieving large accelerations in catalysis. For this reason, our designs are based on the multidrug resistance regulator LmrR, a dimeric transcription factor with a large, hydrophobic binding pocket at its dimer interface. In this pocket, there are two tryptophan moieties, which are important for promiscuous binding of planar hydrophobic conjugated compounds by π-stacking. The catalytic machinery is introduced either by the covalent linkage of a catalytically active metal complex or via the ligand or supramolecular assembly, taking advantage of the two central tryptophan moieties for noncovalent binding of transition-metal complexes.
Designs based on the chemical modification of LmrR were successful in catalysis, but this approach proved too laborious to be practical. Therefore, expanded genetic code methodologies were used to introduce metal binding unnatural amino acids during LmrR biosynthesis in vivo. These ARMs have been successfully applied in Cu(II) catalyzed Friedel–Crafts alkylation of indoles. The extension to MDRs from the TetR family resulted in ARMs capable of providing the opposite enantiomer of the Friedel–Crafts product. We have employed a computationally assisted redesign of these ARMs to create a more active and selective artificial hydratase, introducing a glutamate as a general base at a judicious position so it can activate and direct the incoming water nucleophile.
A supramolecularly assembled ARM from LmrR and copper(II)–phenanthroline was successful in Friedel–Crafts alkylation reactions, giving rise to up to 94% ee. Also, hemin was bound, resulting in an artificial heme enzyme for enantioselective cyclopropanation reactions. The importance of structural dynamics of LmrR was suggested by computational studies, which showed that the pore can open up to allow access of substrates to the catalytic iron center, which, according to the crystal structure, is deeply buried inside the protein.
Finally, the assembly approaches were combined to introduce both a catalytic and a regulatory domain, resulting in an ARM that was specifically activated in the presence of Fe(II) salts but not Zn(II) salts.
Our work demonstrates that LmrR is a privileged scaffold for ARM design: It allows for multiple assembly methods and even combinations of these, it can be applied in a variety of different catalytic reactions, and it shows significant structural dynamics that contribute to achieving the desired catalytic activity. Moreover, both the creation via expanded genetic code methods as well as the supramolecular assembly make LmrR-based ARMs highly suitable for achieving the ultimate goal of the integration of ARMs in biosynthetic pathways in vivo to create a hybrid metabolism.