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J Bacteriol. Jun 1995; 177(12): 3504–3511.
PMCID: PMC177055

A second branched-chain alpha-keto acid dehydrogenase gene cluster (bkdFGH) from Streptomyces avermitilis: its relationship to avermectin biosynthesis and the construction of a bkdF mutant suitable for the production of novel antiparasitic avermectins.


A second cluster of genes encoding the E1 alpha, E1 beta, and E2 subunits of branched-chain alpha-keto acid dehydrogenase (BCDH), bkdFGH, has been cloned and characterized from Streptomyces avermitilis, the soil microorganism which produces anthelmintic avermectins. Open reading frame 1 (ORF1) (bkdF, encoding E1 alpha), would encode a polypeptide of 44,394 Da (406 amino acids). The putative start codon of the incompletely sequenced ORF2 (bkdG, encoding E1 beta) is located 83 bp downstream from the end of ORF1. The deduced amino acid sequence of bkdF resembled the corresponding E1 alpha subunit of several prokaryotic and eukaryotic BCDH complexes. An S. avermitilis bkd mutant constructed by deletion of a genomic region comprising the 5' end of bkdF is also described. The mutant exhibited a typical Bkd- phenotype: it lacked E1 BCDH activity and had lost the ability to grow on solid minimal medium containing isoleucine, leucine, and valine as sole carbon sources. Since BCDH provides an alpha-branched-chain fatty acid starter unit, either S(+)-alpha-methylbutyryl coenzyme A or isobutyryl coenzyme A, which is essential to initiate the synthesis of the avermectin polyketide backbone in S. avermitilis, the disrupted mutant cannot make the natural avermectins in a medium lacking both S(+)-alpha-methylbutyrate and isobutyrate. Supplementation with either one of these compounds restores production of the corresponding natural avermectins, while supplementation of the medium with alternative fatty acids results in the formation of novel avermectins. These results verify that the BCDH-catalyzed reaction of branched-chain amino acid catabolism constitutes a crucial step to provide fatty acid precursors for antibiotic biosynthesis in S. avermitilis.

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