PHA synthases (PhaC) are grouped into four classes based on the kinetics and mechanisms of reaction. The grouping of PhaC enzymes into four classes is dependent on substrate specificity, according to the preference in forming short-chain-length (scl) or medium-chain-length (mcl) polymers: Class I, Class III and Class IV produce scl-PHAs depending on propionate, butyrate, valerate and hexanoate precursors, while Class II PhaC synthesize mcl-PHAs based on the alkane (C6 to C14) precursors. PHA synthases of Class I, in particular PhaCCs
USM2 and PhaCCn
PhaC1 from Cupriavidus necator
, have been analysed and the crystal structures of the C-domains have been determined. PhaCCn
PhaC1 was also studied by X-ray absorption fine-structure (XAFS) analysis. Models have been proposed for dimerization, catalysis mechanism, substrate recognition and affinity, product formation, and product egress route. The assays based on amino acid substitution by mutagenesis have been useful to validate the hypothesis on the role of amino acids in catalysis and in accommodation of bulky substrates, and for the synthesis of PHB copolymers and medium-chain-length PHA polymers with optimized chemical properties.
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