The Baeyer-Villiger Monooxygenase, Phenylacetone Monooxygenase (PAMO), recently discovered by Fraaije, Janssen, and co-workers, is unusually thermostable, which makes it a promising candidate for catalyzing enantioselective Baeyer-Villiger reactions in organic chemistry. Unfortunately, however, its substrate scope is very limited, reasonable reaction rates being observed essentially only with phenylacetone and similar linear phenyl-substituted analogs. Previous protein engineering attempts to broaden the range of substrate acceptance and to control enantioselectivity have been met with limited success, including rational design and directed evolution based on saturation mutagenesis with formation of focused mutant libraries, which may have to do with complex domain movements. In the present study, a new approach to laboratory evolution is described which has led to mutants showing unusually high activity and enantioselectivity in the oxidative kinetic resolution of a variety of 2-aryl and 2-alkylcyclohexanones which are not accepted by the wild-type (WT) PAMO and of a structurally very different bicyclic ketone. The new strategy exploits bioinformatics data derived from sequence alignment of eight different Baeyer-Villiger Monooxygenases, which in conjunction with the known X-ray structure of PAMO and induced fit docking suggests potential randomization sites, different from all previous approaches to focused library generation. Sites harboring highly conserved proline in a loop of the WT are targeted. The most active and enantioselective mutants retain the high thermostability of the parent WT PAMO. The success of the "proline" hypothesis in the present system calls for further testing in future laboratory evolution studies.
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