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J Biol Chem. 2002 Sep 6;277(36):32768-74. Epub 2002 Jun 25.

A novel biosynthetic pathway providing precursors for fatty acid biosynthesis and secondary metabolite formation in myxobacteria.

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Gesellschaft für Biotechnologische Forschung, Mascheroder Weg 1, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany.


Short chain carboxylic acids are well known as the precursors of fatty acid and polyketide biosynthesis. Iso-fatty acids, which are important for the control of membrane fluidity, are formed from branched chain starter units (isovaleryl-CoA and isobutyryl-CoA), which in turn are derived from the degradation of leucine and valine, respectively. Branched chain carboxylic acids are also employed as starter molecules for the biosynthesis of secondary metabolites, e.g. the therapeutically important anthelmintic agent avermectin or the electron transport inhibitor myxothiazol. During our studies on myxothiazol biosynthesis in the myxobacterium, Stigmatella aurantiaca, we detected a novel biosynthetic route to isovaleric acid. After cloning and inactivation of the branched chain keto acid dehydrogenase complex, which is responsible for the degradation of branched chain amino acids, the strain is still able to produce iso-fatty acids and myxothiazol. Incorporation studies employing deuterated leucine show that it can only serve as precursor in the wild type strain but not in the esg mutant. Feeding experiments using (13)C-labeled precursors show that isovalerate is efficiently made from acetate, giving rise to a labeling pattern in myxothiazol that provides evidence for a novel branch of the mevalonate pathway involving the intermediate 3,3-dimethylacryloyl-CoA. 3,3-Dimethylacrylic acid was synthesized in deuterated form and fed to the esg mutant, resulting in strong incorporation into myxothiazol and iso-fatty acids. Similar experiments employing Myxococcus xanthus revealed that the discovered biosynthetic route described is present in other myxobacteria as well.

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