Mechanism of benzylsuccinate synthase: stereochemistry of toluene addition to fumarate and maleate.
ABSTRACT Benzylsuccinate synthase catalyzes a highly unusual reaction: the addition of toluene to fumarate to form (R)-benzylsuccinic acid. The stereochemistry of this reaction has been examined using [d3-methyl]toluene and either fumarate or its cis stereoisomer, maleate, as the substrates. We demonstrate that when fumarate is the cosubstrate, deuterium is transferred from toluene to the C-3 pro-(R) position of benzylsuccinate, implying a syn addition of toluene to the double bond of fumarate. However, when maleate is the cosubstrate, the addition of toluene occurs in an anti fashion, so that deuterium transfer to the C-3 pro-(R) position of benzylsuccinate is also observed. This is consistent with the formation of the C-3 radical of benzylsuccinate as an intermediate, in which rotation about the C-2-C-3 bond can occur to relieve the sterically unfavorable cis conformation of the carboxylate groups when maleate is the cosubstrate.