Steric Enforcement of cis-Epoxide Formation in the Radical C-O-Coupling Reaction by Which (S)-2-Hydroxypropylphosphonate Epoxidase (HppE) Produces Fosfomycin

Shengbin Zhou, Juan Pan, Katherine M. Davis, Irene Schaperdoth, Bo Wang, Amie K. Boal, Carsten Krebs, J. Martin Bollinger

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13 Scopus citations


(S)-2-Hydroxypropylphosphonate [(S)-2-HPP, 1] epoxidase (HppE) reduces H2O2 at its nonheme-iron cofactor to install the oxirane "warhead" of the antibiotic fosfomycin. The net replacement of the C1 pro-R hydrogen of 1 by its C2 oxygen, with inversion of configuration at C1, yields the cis-epoxide of the drug [(1R,2S)-epoxypropylphosphonic acid (cis-Fos, 2)]. Here we show that HppE achieves ∼95% selectivity for C1 inversion and cis-epoxide formation via steric guidance of a radical-coupling mechanism. Published structures of the HppE·FeII·1 and HppE·ZnII·2 complexes reveal distinct pockets for C3 of the substrate and product and identify four hydrophobic residues - Leu120, Leu144, Phe182, and Leu193 - close to C3 in one of the complexes. Replacement of Leu193 in the substrate C3 pocket with the bulkier Phe enhances stereoselectivity (cis:trans ∼99:1), whereas the Leu120Phe substitution in the product C3 pocket diminishes it (∼82:18). Retention of C1 configuration and trans-epoxide formation become predominant with the bulk-reducing Phe182Ala substitution in the substrate C3 pocket (∼13:87), trifluorination of C3 (∼23:77), or both (∼1:99). The effect of C3 trifluorination is counteracted by the more constrained substrate C3 pockets in the Leu193Phe (∼56:44) and Leu144Phe/Leu193Phe (∼90:10) variants. The ability of HppE to epoxidize substrate analogues bearing halogens at C3, C1, or both is inconsistent with a published hypothesis of polar cyclization via a C1 carbocation. Rather, specific enzyme-substrate contacts drive inversion of the C1 radical - as proposed in a recent computational study - to direct formation of the more potently antibacterial cis-epoxide by radicaloid C-O coupling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20397-20406
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number51
StatePublished - Dec 26 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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