Insights into substrate binding of ferulic acid esterases by arabinose and methyl hydroxycinnamate esters and molecular docking

Cameron James Hunt, Io Antonopoulou, Akshat Tanksale, Ulrika Rova, Paul Christakopoulos , Victoria S. Haritos

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Ferulic acid esterases (FAE, EC cleave the arabinose hydroxycinnamate ester in plant hemicellulose and other related substrates. FAE are commonly categorised as type A-D based on catalytic activities towards model, short alkyl chain esters of hydroxycinnamates. However, this system correlates poorly with sequence and structural features of the enzymes. In this study, we investigated the basis of the type A categorisation of an FAE from Aspergillus niger, AnFaeA, by comparing its activity toward methyl and arabinose hydroxycinnamate esters. kcat/Km ratios revealed that AnFaeA hydrolysed arabinose ferulate 1600-fold, and arabinose caffeate 6.5 times more efficiently than their methyl ester counterparts. Furthermore, small docking studies showed that while all substrates adopted a catalytic orientation with requisite proximity to the catalytic serine, methyl caffeate and methyl p-coumarate preferentially formed alternative non-catalytic conformations that were energetically favoured. Arabinose ferulate was unable to adopt the alternative conformation while arabinose caffeate preferred the catalytic orientation. This study demonstrates that use of short alkyl chain hydroxycinnnamate esters can result in activity misclassification. The findings of this study provide a basis for developing a robust classification system for FAE and form the basis of sequence-function relationships for this class.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17315
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

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