The santalene synthase from Cinnamomum camphora: Reconstruction of a sesquiterpene synthase from a monoterpene synthase

Girolamo, A. Di; Durairaj, J.; Houwelingen, A.M.M.L. van; Verstappen, F.W.A.; Bosch, H.J.; Cankar, K.; Bouwmeester, H.J.; Ridder, D. de; Dijk, A.D.J. van; Beekwilder, M.J.


Plant terpene synthases (TPSs) can mediate formation of a large variety of terpenes, and their diversification contributes to the specific chemical profiles of different plant species and chemotypes. Plant genomes often encode a number of related terpene synthases, which can produce very different terpenes. The relationship between TPS sequence and resulting terpene product is not completely understood. In this work we describe two TPSs from the Camphor tree Cinnamomum camphora (L.) Presl. One of these, CiCaMS, acts as a monoterpene synthase (monoTPS), and mediates the production of myrcene, while the other, CiCaSSy, acts as a sesquiterpene synthase (sesquiTPS), and catalyses the production of α-santalene, β-santalene and trans-α-bergamotene. Interestingly, these enzymes share 97% DNA sequence identity and differ only in 22 amino acid residues out of 553.To understand which residues are essential for the catalysis of monoterpenes resp. sesquiterpenes, a number of hybrid synthases were prepared, and supplemented by a set of single-residue variants. These were tested for their ability to produce monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes by in vivo production of sesquiterpenes in E. coli, and by invitro enzyme assays. This analysis pinpointed three residues in the sequence which could mediate the change in product specificity from a monoterpene synthase to a sesquiterpene synthase. Another set of three residues defined the sesquiterpene product profile, including the ratios between sesquiterpene products.