Ligninase of Phanerochaete chrysosporium. Mechanism of its degradation of the non-phenolic arylglycerol β-aryl ether substructure of lignin

T. K. Kirk, M. Tien, P. J. Kersten, M. D. Mozuch, B. Kalyanaraman

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This study examined the ligninase-catalysed degradation of lignin model compounds representing the arylglycerol β-aryl ether substructure, which is the dominant one in the lignin polymer. Three dimeric model compounds were used, all methoxylated in the 3- and 4-positions of the arylglycerol ring (ring A) and having various substituents in the β-ether-linked aromatic ring (ring B), so that competing reactions involving both rings could be compared. Studies of the products formed and the time courses of their formation showed that these model compounds are oxidized by ligninase (+H2O2+O2) in both ring A and ring B. The major consequence with all three model compounds is oxidation of ring A, leading primarily to cleavage between C(α) and C(β) (C(α) being proximal to ring A), and to a lesser extent to the oxidation of the C(α)-hydroxy group to a carbonyl group. Such C(α)-oxidation deactivates ring A, leaving only ring B for attack. Studies with C(α)-carbonyl model compounds corresponding to the three basic model compounds revealed that oxidation of ring B leads in part to dealkoxylations (i.e. to cleavage of the glycerol β-aryl ether bond and to demethoxylations), but that these are minor reactions in the model compounds most closely related to lignin. Evidence is also given that another consequence of oxidation of ring B in the C(α)-carbonyl model compounds is formation of unstable cyclohexadienone ketals, which can decompose with elimination of the β-ether-linked aromatic ring. The mechanisms proposed for the observed reactions involve initial formation of aryl cation radicals in either ring A or ring B. The cation radical intermediate from one of the C(α)-carbonyl model compounds was identified by e.s.r. spectroscopy. The mechanisms are based on earlier studies showing that ligninase acts by oxidizing appropriately substituted aromatic nuclei to aryl cation radicals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-287
Number of pages9
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1986

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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