Single mutations toggle the substrate selectivity of multifunctional Camptotheca secologanic acid synthases

Justin C. Miller, Mary A. Schuler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Terpene indole alkaloids (TIAs) are plant-derived specialized metabolites with widespread use in medicine. Species-specific pathways derive various TIAs from common intermediates, strictosidine or strictosidinic acid, produced by coupling tryptamine with secologanin or secologanic acid. The penultimate reaction in this pathway is catalyzed by either secologanin synthase (SLS) or secologanic acid synthase (SLAS) according to whether plants produce secologanin from loganin or secologanic acid from loganic acid. Previous work has identified SLSs and SLASs from different species, but the determinants of selectivity remain unclear. Here, combining molecular modeling, ancestral sequence reconstruction, and biochemical methodologies, we identified key residues that toggle SLS and SLAS selectivity in two CYP72A (cytochrome P450) subfamily enzymes from Camptotheca acuminata. We found that the positions of foremost importance are in substrate recognition sequence 1 (SRS1), where mutations to either of two adjacent histidine residues switched selectivity; His131Phe selects for and increases secologanin production whereas His132Asp selects for secologanic acid production. Furthermore, a change in SRS3 in the predicted substrate entry channel (Arg/Lys270Thr) and another in SRS4 at the start of the I-helix (Ser324Glu) decreased enzyme activity toward either substrate. We propose that the Camptotheca SLASs have maintained the broadened activities found in a common asterid ancestor, even as the Camptotheca lineage lost its ability to produce loganin while the campanulid and lamiid lineages specialized to produce secologanin by acquiring mutations in SRS1. The identification here of the residues essential for the broad substrate scope of SLASs presents opportunities for more tailored heterologous production of TIAs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102237
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Camptotheca acuminata
  • ancestral sequence reconstruction
  • cytochrome P450
  • enzyme catalysis
  • enzyme mutation
  • homology modeling
  • natural product biosynthesis
  • plant biochemistry
  • secondary metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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