4-Hydroxyphenylacetate 3-hydroxylases (HPAHs) of the two-component flavin-dependent monooxygenase family are attractive enzymes that possess the catalytic potential to synthesize valuable ortho-diphenol compounds from simple monophenol compounds. In this study, we investigated the catalytic activity of HPAH from Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain PAO1 toward cinnamic acid derivatives. We prepared Escherichia coli cells expressing the hpaB gene encoding the monooxygenase component and the hpaC gene encoding the oxidoreductase component. E coli cells expressing HpaBC exhibited no or very low oxidation activity toward cinnamic acid, o-coumaric acid, and m-coumaric acid, whereas they rapidly oxidized p-coumaric acid to caffeic acid. Interestingly, after p-coumaric acid was almost completely consumed, the resulting caffeic acid was further oxidized to 3,4,5-trihydroxycinnamic acid. In addition, HpaBC exhibited oxidation activity toward 3-(4-hydroxyphenyl)propanoic acid, ferulic acid, and coniferaldehyde to produce the corresponding ortho-diphenols. We also investigated a flask-scale production of caffeic acid from p-coumaric acid as the model reaction for HpaBC-catalyzed syntheses of hydroxycinnamic acids. Since the initial concentrations of the substrate p-coumaric acid higher than 40 mM markedly inhibited its HpaBC-catalyzed oxidation, the reaction was carried out by repeatedly adding 20 mM of this substrate to the reaction mixture. Furthermore, by using the HpaBC whole-cell catalyst in the presence of glycerol, our experimental setup achieved the high-yield production of caffeic acid, i.e., 56.6 mM (10.2 g/L) within 24 h. These catalytic activities of HpaBC will provide an easy and environment-friendly synthetic approach to hydroxycinnamic acids.
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