Structurally Guided Reprogramming of Valerenadiene Synthase

Garrett E. Zinck, Joe Chappell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Valerena-1,10-diene synthase (VDS) catalyzes the conversion of the universal precursor farnesyl diphosphate into the unusual sesquiterpene valerena-1,10-diene (VLD), which possesses a unique isobutenyl substituent group. In planta, one of VLD's isobutenyl terminal methyl groups becomes oxidized to a carboxylic acid forming valerenic acid (VA), an allosteric modulator of the GABAA receptor. Because a structure-activity relationship study of VA for its modulatory activity is desired, we sought to manipulate the VDS enzyme for the biosynthesis of structurally diverse scaffolds that could ultimately lead to the generation of VA analogues. Using three-dimensional structural homology models, phylogenetic sequence comparisons to well-characterized sesquiterpene synthases, and a substrate-active site contact mapping approach, the contributions of specific amino acid residues within or near the VDS active site to possible catalytic cascades for VLD and other sesquiterpene products were assessed. An essential role of Tyr535 in a germacrenyl route to VLD was demonstrated, while its contribution to a family of other sesquiterpenes derived from a humulyl route was not. No role for Cys415 or Cys452 serving as a proton donor to reaction intermediates in VLD biosynthesis was observed. However, a gatekeeper role for Asn455 in directing farnesyl carbocations down all-trans catalytic cascades (humulyl and germacrenyl routes) versus a cisoid cascade (nerolidyl route) was demonstrated. Altogether, these results have mapped residues that establish a context for the catalytic cascades operating in VDS and future manipulations for generating more structurally constrained scaffolds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3868-3878
Number of pages11
Issue number51
StatePublished - Dec 28 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Chemical Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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