Biochemical Studies of Mycobacterial Fatty Acid Methyltransferase: A Catalyst for the Enzymatic Production of Biodiesel

Nektaria Petronikolou, Satish K. Nair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Summary Transesterification of fatty acids yields the essential component of biodiesel, but current processes are cost-prohibitive and generate waste. Recent efforts make use of biocatalysts that are effective in diverting products from primary metabolism to yield fatty acid methyl esters in bacteria. These biotransformations require the fatty acid O-methyltransferase (FAMT) from Mycobacterium marinum (MmFAMT). Although this activity was first reported in the literature in 1970, the FAMTs have yet to be biochemically characterized. Here, we describe several crystal structures of MmFAMT, which highlight an unexpected structural conservation with methyltransferases that are involved in plant natural product metabolism. The determinants for ligand recognition are analyzed by kinetic analysis of structure-based active-site variants. These studies reveal how an architectural fold employed in plant natural product biosynthesis is used in bacterial fatty acid O-methylation. Mycobacterial fatty acid methyltransferases are employed as biocatalysts for the production of biodiesel. Petronikolou and Nair describe structural and biochemical characterization of a mycobacterial fatty acid methyltransferase, reveal an unexpected homology to enzymes involved in plant primary metabolism, and provide insights into substrate preference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1480-1490
Number of pages11
JournalChemistry and Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 19 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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