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Chem Biol. 1999 Dec;6(12):845-55.

A two-plasmid system for the glycosylation of polyketide antibiotics: bioconversion of epsilon-rhodomycinone to rhodomycin D.

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School of Pharmacy, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706, USA.



The biological activity of many microbial products requires the presence of one or more deoxysugar molecules attached to agylcone. This is especially prevalent among polyketides and is an important reason that the antitumor anthracycline antibiotics are avid DNA-binding drugs. The ability to make different deoxyaminosugars and attach them to the same or different aglycones in vivo would facilitate the synthesis of new anthracyclines and the quest for antitumor drugs. This is feasible using the numerous bacterial genes for deoxysugar biosynthesis that are now available.


Production of thymidine diphospho (TDP)-L-daunosamine (dnm), the aminodeoxysugar present in the anthracycline antitumor drugs daunorubicin (DNR) and doxorubicin (DXR), and its attachment to epsilon-rhodomycinone to generate rhodomycin D has been achieved by bioconversion with a strain of Streptomyces lividans that bears two plasmids. One contained the Streptomyces peucetius dnmJVUZTQS genes plus dnmW (previously named dpsH and considered to be a polyketide cyclase gene), dnrH, which is not required for the formation of rhodomycin D, and dnrI, a regulatory gene required for expression of the dnm and drr genes. The other plasmid had genes encoding glucose-1-phosphate thymidylyltransferase and TDP-glucose-4,6-dehydratase (dnmL and dnmM, respectively, or mtmDE, their homologs from Streptomyces agrillaceus) plus the drrAB DNR/DXR resistance genes.


The high-yielding glycosylation of the aromatic polyketide epsilon-rhodomycinone using plasmid-borne deoxysugar biosynthesis genes proves that the minimal information for L-daunosamine biosynthesis and attachment in the heterologous host is encoded by the dnmLMJVUTS genes. This is a general approach to making both known and new glycosides of anthracyclines, several of which have medically important antitumor activity.

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