Compound I is the reactive intermediate in the first monooxygenation step during conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone by cytochrome P450scc: EPR/ENDOR/cryoreduction/annealing studies. Academic Article uri icon


  • Cytochrome P450scc (CYP11A1) catalyzes conversion of cholesterol (CH) to pregnenolone, the precursor to all steroid hormones. This process proceeds via three sequential monooxygenation reactions: two stereospecific hydroxylations with formation first of 22R-hydroxycholesterol (22-HC) and then 20α,22R-dihydroxycholesterol (20,22-DHC), followed by C20-C22 bond cleavage. Herein we have employed EPR and ENDOR spectroscopy to characterize the intermediates in the first hydroxylation step by 77 K radiolytic one-electron cryoreduction and subsequent annealing of the ternary oxy-cytochrome P450scc-cholesterol complex. This approach is fully validated by the demonstration that the cryoreduced ternary complex of oxy-P450scc-CH is catalytically competent and hydroxylates cholesterol to form 22-HC with no detectable formation of 20-HC, just as occurs under physiological conditions. Cryoreduction of the ternary complex trapped at 77 K produces predominantly the hydroperoxy-ferriheme P450scc intermediate, along with a minor fraction of peroxo-ferriheme intermediate that converts into a new hydroperoxo-ferriheme species at 145 K. This behavior reveals that the distal pocket of the parent oxy-P450scc-cholesterol complex exhibits an efficient proton delivery network, with an ordered water molecule H-bonded to the distal oxygen of the dioxygen ligand. During annealing of the hydroperoxy-ferric P450scc intermediates at 185 K, they convert to the primary product complex in which CH has been converted to 22-HC. In this process, the hydroperoxy-ferric intermediate decays with a large solvent kinetic isotope effect, as expected when proton delivery to the terminal O leads to formation of Compound I (Cpd I). (1)H ENDOR measurements of the primary product formed in deuterated solvent show that the heme Fe(III) is coordinated to the 22R-O(1)H of 22-HC, where the (1)H is derived from substrate and exchanges to D after annealing at higher temperatures. These observations establish that Cpd I is the agent that hydroxylates CH, rather than the hydroperoxy-ferric heme.

published proceedings

  • J Am Chem Soc

author list (cited authors)

  • Davydov, R., Gilep, A. A., Strushkevich, N. V., Usanov, S. A., & Hoffman, B. M

citation count

  • 34

complete list of authors

  • Davydov, Roman||Gilep, Andrey A||Strushkevich, Natallia V||Usanov, Sergey A||Hoffman, Brian M

publication date

  • October 2012