Benzophenone synthase and chalcone synthase from Hypericum androsaemum cell cultures: cDNA cloning, functional expression, and site-directed mutagenesis of two polyketide synthases


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Benzophenone derivatives, such as polyprenylated benzoylphloroglucinols and xanthones, are biologically active secondary metabolites. The formation of their C13 skeleton is catalyzed by benzophenone synthase (BPS; EC that has been cloned from cell cultures of Hypericum androsaemum. BPS is a novel member of the superfamily of plant polyketide synthases (PKSs), also termed type III PKSs, with 53–63% amino acid sequence identity. Heterologously expressed BPS was a homodimer with a subunit molecular mass of 42.8 kDa. Its preferred starter substrate was benzoyl-CoA that was stepwise condensed with three malonyl-CoAs to give 2,4,6-trihydroxybenzophenone. BPS did not accept activated cinnamic acids as starter molecules. In contrast, recombinant chalcone synthase (CHS; EC from the same cell cultures preferentially used 4-coumaroyl-CoA and also converted CoA esters of benzoic acids. The enzyme shared 60.1% amino acid sequence identity with BPS. In a phylogenetic tree, the two PKSs occurred in different clusters. One cluster was formed by CHSs including the one from H. androsaemum. BPS grouped together with the PKSs that functionally differ from CHS. Site-directed mutagenesis of amino acids shaping the initiation/elongation cavity of CHS yielded a triple mutant (L263M/F265Y/S338G) that preferred benzoyl-CoA over 4-coumaroyl-CoA.