Inverted stereocontrol of iridoid synthase in snapdragon.

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The natural product class of iridoids, found in various species of flowering plants, harbors astonishing chemical complexity. The discovery of iridoid biosynthetic genes in the medicinal plant Catharanthus roseus has provided insight into the biosynthetic origins of this class of natural product. However, not all iridoids share the exact 5-6 bicyclic ring scaffold of the Catharanthus iridoids. For instance, iridoids in the ornamental flower snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus, Plantaginaceae family) are derived from the C7 epimer of this scaffold. Here we have cloned and characterized the iridoid synthase enzyme from A. majus (AmISY), the enzyme that is responsible for converting 8-oxogeranial into the bicyclic iridoid scaffold in a two-step reduction-cyclization sequence. Chiral analysis of the reaction products reveals that AmISY reduces C7 to generate the opposite stereoconfiguration in comparison to the Catharanthus homologue CrISY. The catalytic activity of AmISY thus explains the biosynthesis of 7-epi-iridoids in Antirrhinum and related genera. However, while the stereoselectivity of the reduction step catalyzed by AmISY is clear, in both AmISY and CrISY the cyclization step produces a diastereomeric mixture. While the reduction of 8-oxogeranial is clearly enzymatically catalyzed, the cyclization step appears to be subject to less stringent enzyme control.