Use of Non-canonical Tyrosine Analogs to Probe Control of Radical Intermediates during Endoperoxide Installation by Verruculogen Synthase (FtmOx1)

21 February 2022, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Important bioactive natural products, including prostaglandin H2 and artemisinin, contain reactive endoperoxides. Known enzymatic pathways for endoperoxide installation require multiple hydrogen-atom transfers (HATs). For example, iron(II)- and 2-oxoglutarate-dependent verruculogen synthase (FtmOx1; EC mediates HAT from aliphatic C21 of fumitremorgin B, capture of O2 by the C21 radical (C21•), addition of the peroxyl radical (C21-O-O•) to olefinic C27, and HAT to the resultant C26•. Recent studies proposed conflicting roles for FtmOx1 tyrosine residues, Tyr224 and Tyr68, in the HATs from C21 and to C26•. Here, analysis of variant proteins bearing a ring-halogenated tyrosine or (amino)phenylalanine in place of either residue establishes that Tyr68 is the hydrogen donor to C26•, while Tyr224 has no essential role. The radicals that accumulate rapidly in FtmOx1 variants bearing a HAT-competent tyrosine analog at position 68 exhibit hypsochromically shifted absorption and, in cases of fluorine substitution, 19F-coupled electron-paramagnetic-resonance (EPR) spectra. By contrast, functional Tyr224-substituted variants generate radicals with unaltered light-absorption and EPR signatures as they produce verruculogen. The previously reported alternative product of the Tyr68Phe variant, which is also produced in competition with verruculogen by wild-type FtmOx1 in 2H2O or with 2,3-F2Tyr, a poorer hydrogen donor than tyrosine, at position 68, is identified as the 26-hydroxy-21,27-endoperoxide product, likely formed via the C26-O-O• adduct of the longer-lived C26• with another O2 equivalent. The results highlight the considerable chemical challenges the enzyme must navigate in averting both oxygen rebound and a second O2 coupling to obtain verruculogen selectively over other possible products.


tyrosyl radical
non-canonical amino acids
hydrogen atom transfer
Fe(II)- and 2-oxoglutarate (2OG)-dependent oxygenases
C-H activation

Supplementary materials

Supporting Information
Structural analyses of FtmOx1 and related Fe/2OG oxygenases, stopped-flow traces and kinetic analyses, chemical-quench results, 2OG binding analysis for variants, further EPR and MS data, NMR spectra for fluorotyrosines, SDS-PAGE analysis and ESI-MS spectra for variants, and assignments of MS2 product fragments.


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