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Protein engineering and studies on the catalytic promiscuity of haloalkane dehalogenases

  • Haloalkanes are serious environmental pollutants commonly employed as pesticides, herbicides, and chemical warfare agents. Although haloalkane production is performed mostly in the chemical industry, it also occurs naturally, mostly enzymatically (halide methyltransferases and haloperoxidases). Elimination of toxic haloalkanes is very important and using haloalkane dehalogenases is a promising and environmentally friendly way to achieve this.[53] Therefore, assays are needed for detecting dehalogenase activity either to find new enzymes or to generate laboratory-evolved variants. In this thesis, a new assay for dehalogenase activity was developed based on halide detection. In this assay halides, as dehalogenase products, are oxidized under mild conditions using the vanadium-dependent chloroperoxidase from Curvularia inaequalis, forming hypohalous acids that are detected using aminophenyl fluorescein.[53] This new halide oxidation assay is much more sensitive than previously known assays, with detection limits of 20 nM for bromide and 1 μM for chloride and iodide. Validation of the assay was done by comparison to a well-established GC-MS method in terms of determining the specific activities of two dehalogenases towards five common substrates (Figure 5). The HOX assay was modified for iodide-specific detection by using two other dyes, o-phenylenediamine (OPD) and 3,3′,5,5′-tetramethylbenzidine (TBM), instead of APF. Also, selective bromide detection in the presence of the common contaminant chloride was achieved by using a bromoperoxidase. Since the assay relies on halide detection, it is possible to use it for other halide-producing enzymes (Section 8.1). For example, the TMB-modified version was used for screening of halide methyltransferase libraries towards various alkyl iodides.[166] Furthermore, the HOX assay was used to identify promiscuous dehalogenase activity of the epoxide hydrolase CorEH from Corynebacterium sp. C12.[105] Moreover, studies showed that the HOX assay could be used with in-vitro synthesized protein. Selected dehalogenases, DhlA, DhaA, and DmmA, were synthesized in vitro and used in the assay; the product formation was also validated using GC-MS. In conclusion, the HOX assay can be used with purified protein, whole cells, or in vitro synthesized proteins. The HOX assay application in microfluidic droplets was investigated since an ultra-high-throughput assay for haloalkane dehalogenases is needed. This investigation showed no leakage of reaction components and products in the short term (~24 h), based on tests done on water-in-oil droplets generated by microfluidic chips. Even though 20 μM droplets were not working, 70 μM droplets were successful for assay implementation. Since the Damborsky group in Brno (CZ) and the deMello group in Zürich (CH), have large dehalogenase libraries and more experience in microfluidics, respectively, we collaborated with these groups to finalize implementation of the assay in an ultrahigh-throughput format. Since the studies are ongoing, final results could not yet be shown in this thesis. However, it can be noted that the issue with 20 μm droplets has been sorted out since our collaborators in Brno noticed that the low fluorescence of the droplets is actually caused by excessive accumulation of fluorescein, which is self-quenching, resulting in low fluorescence once the concentration exceeds 1 μM. By lowering the APF concentration they could optimize the maximum amount of fluorescein formed, and a mutant library has now been successfully screened by our collaborators at the ETH. The last topic of the thesis was an investigation of converting an epoxide hydrolase into a haloalkane dehalogenase. These studies focused on increasing the minor dehalogenase activity of two previously identified epoxide hydrolase (Cif) variants. These Cif variants hardly led to soluble proteins, the PROSS algorithm was used to increase soluble expression. New variants of Cif were generated using a 3DM analysis and the PROSS[164] design. The activities of these variants were determined with the newly developed HOX assay in a whole-cell format. Cif23 E153N-H269D and the PROSS D7 E153N-H269D variant, were found being active against 1,2-dibromoethane. Since the determination of enzyme concentration was hard to measure due to the expression/purification problem, specific activities could not be determined. To solve this problem, a HiBiT-tag was added to the selected variants for determining soluble expression. However, the planned studies could not be completed because of a lack of time and will form the basis for a future study.

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Author: Askin Sevinc Aslan Uzel
Title Additional (German):Protein-Engineering und Studien zur katalytischen Promiskuität von Haloalkan-Dehalogenasen
Referee:Prof. Dr. Uwe T. Bornscheuer, Prof. Dr. Rebecca Buller
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Year of Completion:2021
Date of first Publication:2021/12/20
Granting Institution:Universität Greifswald, Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Date of final exam:2021/11/02
Release Date:2021/12/20
GND Keyword:haloalkane dehalogenases, catalytic promiscuity
Page Number:86
Faculties:Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Institut für Chemie und Biochemie
DDC class:500 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie