YfeX - A New Platform for Carbene Transferase Development with High Intrinsic Reactivity

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Carbene transfer biocatalysis has evolved from basic science to an area with vast potential for the development of new industrial processes. In this study, we show that YfeX, naturally a peroxidase, has great potential for the development of new carbene transferases, due to its high intrinsic reactivity, especially for the N-H insertion reaction of aromatic and aliphatic primary and secondary amines. YfeX shows high stability against organic solvents (methanol and DMSO), greatly improving turnover of hydrophobic substrates. Interestingly, in styrene cyclopropanation, WT YfeX naturally shows high enantioselectivity, generating the trans product with 87% selectivity for the (R,R) enantiomer. WT YfeX also catalyzes the Si-H insertion efficiently. Steric effects in the active site were further explored using the R232A variant. Quantum Mechanics/Molecular Mechanics (QM/MM) calculations reveal details on the mechanism of Si-H insertion. YfeX, and potentially other peroxidases, are exciting new targets for the development of improved carbene transferases.