A Computational Investigation of the Biosynthesis of Lanosterol
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The biosynthesis of the steroid precursor molecule lanosterol is a remarkable process in which the enzyme-bound substrate 2,3-S-oxidosqualene forms four new carbocyclic rings by a cascade of cation-alkene addition reactions, followed by a series of 1,2-methyl and hydride shifts. The work presented in this thesis is a computational study of the reactions of compounds designed to model the oxidosqualene-lanosterol cyclisation in order to establish details of the mechanism of this amazing cyclisation. The initiation of oxidosqualene cyclisation has been modelled by the intermolecular reaction of protonated oxirane and methylpropene. The SN2-like ring opening of the protonated epoxide is strongly exothermic with a low barrier to reaction; the geometry of the gas phase reaction has been found to be significantly affected by hyperconjugative stabilisations and low energy steric interactions. The energy profile and geometry of this reaction can now be compared to analogous intramolecular reactions such as the formation of the lanosterol A-ring. The competing five- and six-membered cyclisations of a series of substituted A-ring model compounds was investigated. It has been found that the facile cleavage of the protonated epoxide causes the reaction to behave more as an electrophilic addition than as a nucleophilic ring-opening substitution. This behaviour accounts for the general preference of protonated epoxides to react at the more substituted carbon atom, while epoxides in neutral or basic media react at the least sterically hindered carbon. With consideration for Baldwin's rules for ring closure, it is seen that the series of model compounds generally favours six-membered ring formation endo at the epoxide. The formation of the lanosterol B-ring was studied using a bicyclic model system. Previous computational studies had predicted the B-ring to close with readily with an activation energy of less than 1 kcal mol-1, however the present study has found a significant barrier to cyclisation of ca. 5-7 kcal mol-1 in this gas-phase model at the HF/6-31G(d) level of theory. This barrier is thought to arise from the closure of the B-ring in a sterically hindered twist-boat conformation.