Radical SAM catalysis via an organometallic intermediate with an Fe–[5′-C]-deoxyadenosyl bond

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Science  13 May 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6287, pp. 822-825
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf5327

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Catching a radical in action

Many enzymes catalyze reactions through the production of radical intermediates. Radical SAM enzymes, the largest superfamily of enzymes in nature, do this by using an iron-sulfur cluster to cleave S-adenosylmethionine and produce a radical intermediate. Using freeze quenching, Horitani et al. were able to trap a previously unseen radical intermediate from bacterial pyruvate formate-lyase activating enzyme. Spectroscopy revealed that the intermediate consists of a short-lived covalent bond between the terminal carbon of 5′-deoxyadenosyl and the single iron atom of the iron-sulfur cluster. Not only does the observation of this radical expand our mechanistic understanding of radical SAM enzymes, but it expands the range of enzyme active sites or cofactors that function through an organometallic center.

Science, this issue p. 822


Radical S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) enzymes use a [4Fe-4S] cluster to cleave SAM to initiate diverse radical reactions. These reactions are thought to involve the 5′-deoxyadenosyl radical intermediate, which has not yet been detected. We used rapid freeze-quenching to trap a catalytically competent intermediate in the reaction catalyzed by the radical SAM enzyme pyruvate formate-lyase activating enzyme. Characterization of the intermediate by electron paramagnetic resonance and 13C, 57Fe electron nuclear double-resonance spectroscopies reveals that it contains an organometallic center in which the 5′ carbon of a SAM-derived deoxyadenosyl moiety forms a bond with the unique iron site of the [4Fe-4S] cluster. Discovery of this intermediate extends the list of enzymatic bioorganometallic centers to the radical SAM enzymes, the largest enzyme superfamily known, and reveals intriguing parallels to B12 radical enzymes.

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