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Characterisation of a solvent-tolerant haloarchaeal (R)-selective transaminase isolated from a Triassic period salt mine

Transaminase enzymes (TAms) are becoming increasingly valuable in the chemist’s toolbox as a biocatalytic route to chiral amines. Despite high profile successes, the lack of (R)-selective TAms and robustness under harsh industrial conditions continue to prove problematic. Herein, we report the isolation of the first haloarchaeal TAm (BC61-TAm) to be characterised for the purposes of pharmaceutical biocatalysis. BC61-TAm is an (R)-selective enzyme, cloned from an extremely halophilic archaeon, isolated from a Triassic period salt mine. Produced using a Haloferax volcanii–based expression model, the resulting protein displays a classic halophilic activity profile, as well as thermotolerance (optimum 50 °C) and organic solvent tolerance.
Molecular modelling predicts the putative active site residues of haloarchaeal TAms, with molecular dynamics simulations providing insights on the basis of BC61-TAm’s organic solvent tolerance. These results represent an exciting advance in the study of transaminases from extremophiles, providing a possible scaffold for future discovery of biocatalytic enzymes with robust properties.

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