The central importance of chorismate enzymes in bacteria, fungi, parasites, and plants combined with their absence in mammals makes them attractive targets for antimicrobials and herbicides. Two of these enzymes, anthranilate synthase (AS) and aminodeoxychorismate synthase (ADCS), are structurally and mechanistically similar. The first catalytic step, amination at C2, is common between them, but AS additionally catalyzes pyruvate elimination, aromatizing the aminated intermediate to anthranilate. Despite prior attempts, the conversion of a pyruvate elimination-deficient enzyme into an elimination-proficient one has not been reported. Janus, a bioinformatics method for predicting mutations required to functionally interconvert homologous enzymes, was employed to predict mutations to convert ADCS into AS. A genetic selection on a library of Janus-predicted mutations was performed. Complementation of an AS-deficient strain of Escherichia coli grown on minimal medium led to several ADCS mutants that allow growth in 6 days compared to 2 days for wild-type AS. The purified mutant enzymes catalyze the conversion of chorismate to anthranilate at rates that are ∼50% of the rate of wild-type ADCS-catalyzed conversion of chorismate to aminodeoxychorismate. The residues mutated do not contact the substrate. Molecular dynamics studies suggest that pyruvate elimination is controlled by the conformation of the C2-aminated intermediate. Enzymes that catalyze elimination favor the equatorial conformation, which presents the C2-H to a conserved active site lysine (Lys424) for deprotonation and maximizes stereoelectronic activation. Acid/base catalysis of pyruvate elimination was confirmed in AS and salicylate synthase by showing incorporation of a solvent-derived proton into the pyruvate methyl group and by solvent kinetic isotope effects on pyruvate elimination catalyzed by AS.
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