Biophysical and structural studies reveal marginal stability of a crucial hydrocarbon biosynthetic enzyme acyl ACP reductase
Acyl-ACP reductase (AAR) is one of the two key cyanobacterial enzymes along with aldehyde deformylating oxygenase (ADO) involved in the synthesis of long-chain alkanes, a drop-in biofuel. The enzyme is prone to aggregation when expressed in Escherichia coli, leading to varying alkane levels. The present work attempts to investigate the crucial structural aspects of AAR protein associated with its stability and folding. Characterization by dynamic light scattering experiment and intact mass spectrometry revealed that recombinantly expressed AAR in E. coli existed in multiple-sized protein particles due to diverse lipidation. Interestingly, while thermal- and urea-based denaturation of AAR showed 2-state unfolding transition in circular dichroism and intrinsic fluorescent spectroscopy, the unfolding process of AAR was a 3-state pathway in GdnHCl solution suggesting that the protein milieu plays a significant role in dictating its folding. Apparent standard free energy (ΔGH2ONU) of ~ 4.5 kcal/mol for the steady-state unfolding of AAR indicated borderline stability of the protein. Based on these evidences, we propose that the marginal stability of AAR are plausible contributing reasons for aggregation propensity and hence the low catalytic activity of the enzyme when expressed in E. coli for biofuel production. Our results show a path for building superior biocatalyst for higher biofuel production.
Acyl-ACP reductase, AAR, ADO, Escherichia coil, protein, biofuel