Accurate Detection of Adenylation Domain Functions in Nonribosomal Peptide Synthetases by an Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay System Using Active Site-directed Probes for Adenylation Domains

A significant gap exists between protein engineering and enzymes used for the biosynthesis of natural products, largely because there is a paucity of strategies that rapidly detect active-site phenotypes of the enzymes with desired activities. Herein, we describe a proof-of-concept study of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) system for the adenylation (A) domains in nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPSs) using a combination of active site-directed probes coupled to a 5′-<i>O</i>-<i>N</i>-(aminoacyl)­sulfamoyladenosine scaffold with a biotin functionality that immobilizes probe molecules onto a streptavidin-coated solid support. The recombinant NRPSs have a C-terminal His-tag motif that is targeted by an anti-6×His mouse antibody as the primary antibody and a horseradish peroxidase-linked goat antimouse antibody as the secondary antibody. These probes can selectively capture the cognate A domains by ligand-directed targeting. In addition, the ELISA technique detected A domains in the crude cell-free homogenates from the <i>Escherichia coli</i> expression systems. When coupled with a chromogenic substrate, the antibody-based ELISA technique can visualize probe–protein binding interactions, which provides accurate readouts of the A-domain functions in NRPS enzymes. To assess the ELISA-based engineering of the A domains of NRPSs, we reprogramed 2,3-dihydroxybenzoic acid (DHB)-activating enzyme EntE toward salicylic acid (Sal)-activating enzymes and investigated a correlation between binding properties for probe molecules and enzyme catalysts. We generated a mutant of EntE that displayed negligible loss in the <i>k</i><sub>cat</sub>/<i>K</i><sub>m</sub> value with the noncognate substrate Sal and a corresponding 48-fold decrease in the <i>k</i><sub>cat</sub>/<i>K</i><sub>m</sub> value with the cognate substrate DHB. The resulting 26-fold switch in substrate specificity was achieved by the replacement of a Ser residue in the active site of EntE with a Cys toward the nonribosomal codes of Sal-activating enzymes. Bringing a laboratory ELISA technique and adenylating enzymes together using a combination of active site-directed probes for the A domains in NRPSs should accelerate both the functional characterization and manipulation of the A domains in NRPSs.