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Keywords:

  • cytochromes;
  • enzyme catalysis;
  • heme proteins;
  • hydroperoxide lyase;
  • lyases

Abstract

Plants continuously have to defend themselves against life-threatening events such as drought, mechanical damage, temperature stress, and potential pathogens. Nowadays, more and more similarities between the defense mechanism of plants and that of animals are being discovered. In both cases, the lipoxygenase pathway plays an important role. In plants, products of this pathway are involved in wound healing, pest resistance, and signaling, or they have antimicrobial and antifungal activity. The first step in the lipoxygenase pathway is the reaction of linoleic or linolenic acids with molecular oxygen, catalyzed by the enzyme lipoxygenase. The hydroperoxy fatty acids thus formed are highly reactive and dangerous for the plant and therefore further metabolized by other enzymes such as allene oxide synthase, hydroperoxide lyase, peroxygenase, or divinyl ether synthase. Recently, these enzymes have been characterized as a special class of cytochrome P450 enzymes. Hydroperoxide lyases cleave the lipoxygenase products, resulting in the formation of ω-oxo acids and volatile C6- and C9-aldehydes and -alcohols. These compounds are major contributors to the characteristic “fresh green” odor of fruit and vegetables. They are widely used as food flavors, for example, to restore the freshness of food after sterilization processes. The low abundance of these compounds in nature and the high demand make it necessary to synthesize them on a large scale. Lipoxygenase and hydroperoxide lyase are suitable biocatalysts for the production of “natural” food flavors. In contrast to lipoxygenase, which has been extensively studied, little is yet known about hydroperoxide lyase. Hydroperoxide lyases from different organisms have been isolated, and a few genes have been published lately. However, the structure and reaction mechanism of this enzyme are still unclear. The identification of this enzyme as a cytochrome P450 sheds new light on its structure and possible reaction mechanism, whereas recombinant expression brings a biocatalytic application into sight.