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Chem Biol. 1999 Aug;6(8):553-8.

Elucidating the mechanism of chain termination switching in the picromycin/methymycin polyketide synthase.

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KOSAN Biosciences, Inc., 3832 Bay Center Place, Hayward, CA 94545, USA.



A single modular polyketide synthase (PKS) gene cluster is responsible for production of both the 14-membered macrolide antibiotic picromycin and the 12-membered macrolide antibiotic methymycin in Streptomyces venezuelae. Building on the success of the heterologous expression system engineered using the erythromycin PKS, we have constructed an analogous system for the picromycin/methymycin PKS. Through heterologous expression and construction of a hybrid PKS, we have examined the contributions that the PKS, its internal thioesterase domain (pikTE) and the Pik TEII thioesterase domain make in termination and cyclization of the two polyketide intermediates.


The picromycin/methymycin PKS genes were functionally expressed in the heterologous host Streptomyces lividans, resulting in production of both narbonolide and 10-deoxymethynolide (the precursors of picromycin and methymycin, respectively). Co-expression with the Pik TEII thioesterase led to increased production levels, but did not change the ratio of the two compounds produced, leaving the function of this protein largely unknown. Fusion of the PKS thioesterase domain (pikTE) to 6-deoxyerythronolide B synthase (DEBS) resulted in formation of only 14-membered macrolactones.


These experiments demonstrate that the PKS alone is capable of catalyzing the synthesis of both 14- and 12-membered macrolactones and favor a model by which different macrolactone rings result from a combination of the arrangement between the module 5 and module 6 subunits in the picromycin PKS complex and the selectivity of the pikTE domain.

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