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Chem Biol. 2001 Feb;8(2):207-20.

Role of type II thioesterases: evidence for removal of short acyl chains produced by aberrant decarboxylation of chain extender units.

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Cambridge Centre for Molecular Recognition and University Chemical Laboratory, University of Cambridge, UK.



Modular polyketide synthases (PKSs) function as molecular assembly lines in which polyketide chains are assembled by successive addition of chain extension units. At the end of the assembly line, there is usually a covalently linked type I thioesterase domain (TE I), which is responsible for release of the completed acyl chain from its covalent link to the synthase. Additionally, some PKS clusters contain a second thioesterase gene (TE II) for which there is no established role. Disruption of the TE II genes from several PKS clusters has shown that the TE II plays an important role in maintaining normal levels of antibiotic production. It has been suggested that the TE II fulfils this role by removing aberrant intermediates that might otherwise block the PKS complex.


We show that recombinant tylosin TE II behaves in vitro as a TE towards a variety of N-acetylcysteamine and p-nitrophenyl esters. The trends of hydrolytic activity determined by the kinetic parameter k(cat)/K(M) for the analogues tested indicates that simple fatty acyl chains are effective substrates. Analogues that modelled aberrant forms of putative tylosin biosynthetic intermediates were hydrolysed at low rates.


The behaviour of tylosin TE II in vitro is consistent with its proposed role as an editing enzyme. Aberrant decarboxylation of a malonate-derived moiety attached to an acyl carrier protein (ACP) domain may generate an acetate, propionate or butyrate residue on the ACP thiol. Our results suggest that removal of such groups is a significant role of TE II.

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