U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Green, A.R., Lewis, K.M., Barr, J.T., Jones, J.P., Lu, F., Ralph, J., Vermerris, W., Sattler, S.E., Kang, C. 2014. Determination of the structure and catalytic mechanism of Sorghum bicolor caffeic acid O-methyltransferase and the structural impact of three brown midrib12 mutations. Plant Physiology. 165(4):1440-1456. DOI: 10.1104/pp114.241729.


U.S. government work.


Using S-adenosyl-methionine as the methyl donor, caffeic acid O-methyltransferase from sorghum (Sorghum bicolor; SbCOMT) methylates the 5-hydroxyl group of its preferred substrate, 5-hydroxyconiferaldehyde. In order to determine the mechanism of SbCOMT and understand the observed reduction in the lignin syringyl-to-guaiacyl ratio of three brown midrib12 mutants that carry COMT gene missense mutations, we determined the apo-form and S-adenosyl-methionine binary complex SbCOMT crystal structures and established the ternary complex structure with 5-hydroxyconiferaldehyde by molecular modeling. These structures revealed many features shared with monocot ryegrass (Lolium perenne) and dicot alfalfa (Medicago sativa) COMTs. SbCOMT steady-state kinetic and calorimetric data suggest a random bi-bi mechanism. Based on our structural, kinetic, and thermodynamic results, we propose that the observed reactivity hierarchy among 4,5-dihydroxy-3- methoxycinnamyl (and 3,4-dihydroxycinnamyl) aldehyde, alcohol, and acid substrates arises from the ability of the aldehyde to stabilize the anionic intermediate that results from deprotonation of the 5-hydroxyl group by histidine-267. Additionally, despite the presence of other phenylpropanoid substrates in vivo, sinapaldehyde is the preferential product, as demonstrated by its low Km for 5-hydroxyconiferaldehyde. Unlike its acid and alcohol substrates, the aldehydes exhibit product inhibition, and we propose that this is due to nonproductive binding of the S-cis-form of the aldehydes inhibiting productive binding of the S-trans-form. The S-cisaldehydes most likely act only as inhibitors, because the high rotational energy barrier around the 2-propenyl bond prevents S-trans-conversion, unlike alcohol substrates, whose low 2-propenyl bond rotational energy barrier enables rapid S-cis/S-transinterconversion.