EPSP synthase

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EPSP Synthase (3-phosphoshikimate 1-carboxyvinyltransferase)
EPSP synthase liganded with shikimate.[1]
EC no.
CAS no.9068-73-9
IntEnzIntEnz view
ExPASyNiceZyme view
MetaCycmetabolic pathway
PDB structuresRCSB PDB PDBe PDBsum
Gene OntologyAmiGO / QuickGO
EPSP synthase (3-phosphoshikimate 1-carboxyvinyltransferase)
Ribbon diagram of EPSP synthase
Available protein structures:
Pfam  structures / ECOD  
PDBsumstructure summary

5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate (EPSP) synthase is an enzyme produced by plants and microorganisms. EPSPS catalyzes the chemical reaction:

phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP) + 3-phospho shikimate (S3P) ⇌ phosphate + 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate (EPSP)

Thus, the two substrates of this enzyme are phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP) and 3-phosphoshikimate, whereas its two products are phosphate and 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate.

This enzyme is not present in the genomes of animals. It presents an attractive biological target for herbicides, such as glyphosate. A glyphosate-resistant version of this gene has been used in genetically modified crops.


The enzyme belongs to the family of transferases, to be specific those transferring aryl or alkyl groups other than methyl groups. The systematic name of this enzyme class is phosphoenolpyruvate:3-phosphoshikimate 5-O-(1-carboxyvinyl)-transferase. Other names in common use include:

  • 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase,
  • 3-enolpyruvylshikimate 5-phosphate synthase,
  • 3-enolpyruvylshikimic acid-5-phosphate synthetase,
  • 5′-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase,
  • 5-enolpyruvyl-3-phosphoshikimate synthase,
  • 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthetase,
  • 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphoric acid synthase,
  • enolpyruvylshikimate phosphate synthase, and
  • 3-phosphoshikimate 1-carboxyvinyl transferase.


EPSP synthase is a monomeric enzyme with a molecular mass of about 46,000.[2][3][4] It is composed of two domains, which are joined by protein strands. This strand acts as a hinge, and can bring the two protein domains closer together. When a substrate binds to the enzyme, ligand bonding causes the two parts of the enzyme to clamp down around the substrate in the active site.

EPSP synthase has been divided into two groups according to glyphosate sensitivity. Class I enzyme, contained in plants and in some bacteria, is inhibited at low micromolar glyphosate concentrations, whereas class II enzyme, found in other bacteria, is resistant to inhibition by glyphosate.[5]

Shikimate pathway[edit]

EPSP synthase participates in the biosynthesis of the aromatic amino acids phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan via the shikimate pathway in bacteria, fungi, and plants. EPSP synthase is produced only by plants and micro-organisms; the gene coding for it is not in the mammalian genome.[6][7] Gut flora of some animals contain EPSPS.[8]


EPSP synthase catalyzes the reaction which converts shikimate-3-phosphate plus phosphoenolpyruvate to 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate (EPSP) by way of an acetal-like tetrahedral intermediate.[9][10] Basic and amino acids in the active site are involved in deprotonation of the hydroxyl group of PEP and in the proton-exchange steps related to the tetrahedral intermediate itself, respectively.[11]

Studies of the enzyme kinetics for this reaction have determined the specific sequence and energetics of each step of the process.[12]

Herbicide target[edit]

EPSP synthase is the biological target for the herbicide glyphosate.[13] Glyphosate is a competitive inhibitor of EPSP synthase, acting as a transition state analog that binds more tightly to the EPSPS-S3P complex than PEP and inhibits the shikimate pathway. This binding leads to inhibition of the enzyme's catalysis and shuts down the pathway. Eventually this results in organism death from lack of aromatic amino acids the organism requires to survive.[5][14]

A version of the enzyme that both was resistant to glyphosate and that was still efficient enough to drive adequate plant growth was identified by Monsanto scientists after much trial and error in an Agrobacterium strain called CP4 (Q9R4E4). The strain CP4 was found surviving in a waste-fed column at a glyphosate production facility. The CP4 EPSP synthase enzyme has been engineered into several genetically modified crops.[5][15]


  1. ^ Priestman MA, Healy ML, Funke T, Becker A, Schönbrunn E (October 2005). "Molecular basis for the glyphosate-insensitivity of the reaction of 5-enolpyruvylshikimate 3-phosphate synthase with shikimate". FEBS Lett. 579 (25): 5773–80. doi:10.1016/j.febslet.2005.09.066. PMID 16225867. S2CID 26614581.
  2. ^ Goldsbrough, Peter (1990). "Gene amplification in glyphosate tolerant tobacco cells". Plant Science. 72 (1): 53–62. doi:10.1016/0168-9452(90)90186-r.
  3. ^ Abdel-Meguid SS, Smith WW, Bild GS (Dec 1985). "Crystallization of 5-enolpyruvylshikimate 3-phosphate synthase from Escherichia coli". Journal of Molecular Biology. 186 (3): 673. doi:10.1016/0022-2836(85)90140-8. PMID 3912512.
  4. ^ Ream JE, Steinrücken HC, Porter CA, Sikorski JA (May 1988). "Purification and Properties of 5-Enolpyruvylshikimate-3-Phosphate Synthase from Dark-Grown Seedlings of Sorghum bicolor". Plant Physiology. 87 (1): 232–8. doi:10.1104/pp.87.1.232. PMC 1054731. PMID 16666109.
  5. ^ a b c Pollegioni L, Schonbrunn E, Siehl D (Aug 2011). "Molecular basis of glyphosate resistance-different approaches through protein engineering". The FEBS Journal. 278 (16): 2753–66. doi:10.1111/j.1742-4658.2011.08214.x. PMC 3145815. PMID 21668647.
  6. ^ Funke T, Han H, Healy-Fried ML, Fischer M, Schönbrunn E (Aug 2006). "Molecular basis for the herbicide resistance of Roundup Ready crops". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 103 (35): 13010–5. Bibcode:2006PNAS..10313010F. doi:10.1073/pnas.0603638103. JSTOR 30050705. PMC 1559744. PMID 16916934.
  7. ^ Maeda H, Dudareva N (2012). "The shikimate pathway and aromatic amino Acid biosynthesis in plants". Annual Review of Plant Biology. 63 (1): 73–105. doi:10.1146/annurev-arplant-042811-105439. PMID 22554242. The AAA pathways consist of the shikimate pathway (the prechorismate pathway) and individual postchorismate pathways leading to Trp, Phe, and Tyr.... These pathways are found in bacteria, fungi, plants, and some protists but are absent in animals. Therefore, AAAs and some of their derivatives (vitamins) are essential nutrients in the human diet, although in animals Tyr can be synthesized from Phe by Phe hydroxylase....The absence of the AAA pathways in animals also makes these pathways attractive targets for antimicrobial agents and herbicides.
  8. ^ Cerdeira AL, Duke SO (2006). "The current status and environmental impacts of glyphosate-resistant crops: a review". Journal of Environmental Quality. 35 (5): 1633–58. doi:10.2134/jeq2005.0378. PMID 16899736.
  9. ^ " EPSP synthase: A tetrahedral ketal phosphate enzyme intermediate". Comprehensive Natural Products II. Chemistry and Biology. Reference Module in Chemistry, Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering. Vol. 8. 2010. pp. 663–688.
  10. ^ Anderson, Karen S.; Sammons, R. Douglas; Leo, Gregory C.; Sikorski, James A.; Benesi, Alan J.; Johnson, Kenneth A. (1990). "Observation by carbon-13 NMR of the EPSP synthase tetrahedral intermediate bound to the enzyme active site". Biochemistry. 29 (6): 1460–1465. doi:10.1021/bi00458a017. PMID 2334707.
  11. ^ Park, HaJeung; Hilsenbeck, Jacqueline L.; Kim, Hak Jun; Shuttleworth, Wendy A.; Park, Yong Ho; Evans, Jeremy N.; Kang, ChulHee (2004). "Structural studies of Streptococcus pneumoniae EPSP synthase in unliganded state, tetrahedral intermediate‐bound state and S3P‐GLP‐bound state". Molecular Microbiology. 51 (4): 963–971. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2958.2003.03885.x. PMID 14763973. S2CID 45549442.
  12. ^ Anderson, Karen S.; Sikorski, James A.; Johnson, Kenneth A. (1988). "A tetrahedral intermediate in the EPSP synthase reaction observed by rapid quench kinetics". Biochemistry. 27 (19): 7395–7406. doi:10.1021/bi00419a034. PMID 3061457.
  13. ^ Fonseca, Emily C. M.; da Costa, Kauê S.; Lameira, Jerônimo; Alves, Cláudio Nahum; Lima, Anderson H. (2020). "Investigation of the target-site resistance of EPSP synthase mutants P106T and T102I/P106S against glyphosate". RSC Advances. 10 (72): 44352–44360. doi:10.1039/D0RA09061A. ISSN 2046-2069.
  14. ^ Schönbrunn E, Eschenburg S, Shuttleworth WA, Schloss JV, Amrhein N, Evans JN, Kabsch W (Feb 2001). "Interaction of the herbicide glyphosate with its target enzyme 5-enolpyruvylshikimate 3-phosphate synthase in atomic detail". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 98 (4): 1376–80. Bibcode:2001PNAS...98.1376S. doi:10.1073/pnas.98.4.1376. PMC 29264. PMID 11171958.
  15. ^ Green JM, Owen MD (Jun 2011). "Herbicide-resistant crops: utilities and limitations for herbicide-resistant weed management". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 59 (11): 5819–29. doi:10.1021/jf101286h. PMC 3105486. PMID 20586458.

Further reading[edit]