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Journal Article

Elucidating substrate binding in the light-dependent protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase


Pesara,  Penelope
Research Group Pantazis, Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Max Planck Society;


Pantazis,  Dimitrios A.
Research Group Pantazis, Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Max Planck Society;

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Pesara, P., Szafran, K., Nguyen, H. C., Sirohiwal, A., Pantazis, D. A., & Gabruk, M. (2024). Elucidating substrate binding in the light-dependent protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase. Chemical Science, 15(20), 7767-7780. doi:10.1039/D4SC00923A.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000F-427A-E
The Light-Dependent Protochlorophyllide Oxidoreductase (LPOR) catalyzes a crucial step in chlorophyll biosynthesis: the rare biological photocatalytic reduction of the double C=C bond in the precursor, protochlorophyllide (Pchlide). Despite its fundamental significance, limited structural insights into the active complex have hindered understanding of its reaction mechanism. Recently, a high-resolution cryo-EM structure of LPOR in its active conformation challenged our view of pigment binding, residue interactions, and the catalytic process. Surprisingly, this structure contrasts markedly with previous assumptions, particularly regarding the orientation of the bound Pchlide. To gain insights into the substrate binding puzzle, we conducted molecular dynamics simulations, quantum-mechanics/molecular-mechanics (QM/MM) calculations, and site-directed mutagenesis. Two Pchlide binding modes were considered, one aligning with historical proposals (mode A) and another consistent with the recent experimental data (mode B). Binding energy calculations revealed that in contrast to the non-specific interactions found for mode A, mode B exhibits distinct stabilizing interactions that support more thermodynamically favorable binding. A comprehensive analysis incorporating QM/MM-based local energy decomposition unraveled a complex interaction network involving Y177, H319, and the C131 carboxy group, influencing the pigment's excited state energy and potentially contributing to substrate specificity. Importantly, our results uniformly favor mode B, challenging established interpretations and emphasizing the need for a comprehensive re-evaluation of the LPOR reaction mechanism in a way that incorporates accurate structural information on pigment interactions and substrate-cofactor positioning in the binding pocket. The results shed light on the intricacies of LPOR's catalytic mechanism and provide a solid foundation for further elucidating the secrets of chlorophyll biosynthesis.