Technological watch

A Designed Photoenzyme for Enantioselective [2+2]-Cycloadditions

The ability to programme new modes of catalysis into proteins would allow the development of enzyme families with functions beyond those found in nature. To this end, genetic code expansion methodology holds particular promise, as it allows the site-selective introduction of new functional elements into proteins as non-canonical amino acid side chains.1-4 Here, we exploit an expanded genetic code to develop a photoenzyme that operates via triplet energy transfer catalysis, a versatile mode of reactivity in organic synthesis that is currently not accessible to biocatalysis.5-12 Installation of a genetically encoded photosensitiser into the beta-propeller scaffold of DA_20_0013 converts a de novo Diels-Alderase into a photoenzyme for [2+2]-cycloadditions (EnT1.0). Subsequent development and implementation of a platform for photoenzyme evolution afforded an efficient and enantioselective enzyme (EnT1.3, up to 99% e.e.) that can promote intramolecular and bimolecular cycloadditions, including transformations that have proven challenging to achieve selectively with small molecule catalysts. EnT1.3 performs >300 turnovers and, in contrast to small molecule photocatalysts, can operate effectively under aerobic conditions and at ambient temperatures. An X-ray crystal structure of an EnT1.3-product complex shows how multiple functional components work in synergy to promote efficient and selective photocatalysis. This study opens up a wealth of new excited-state chemistry in protein active sites and establishes the framework for developing a new generation of enantioselective photocatalysts.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.