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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Oct 29;99(22):14002-7. Epub 2002 Oct 14.

A polyketide synthase-peptide synthetase gene cluster from an uncultured bacterial symbiont of Paederus beetles.

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Department of Bioorganic Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Winzerlaer Strasse 10, Beutenberg Campus, 07745 Jena, Germany.


Many drug candidates from marine and terrestrial invertebrates are suspected metabolites of uncultured bacterial symbionts. The antitumor polyketides of the pederin family, isolated from beetles and sponges, are an example. Drug development from such sources is commonly hampered by low yields and the difficulty of sustaining invertebrate cultures. To obtain insight into the true producer and find alternative supplies of these rare drug candidates, the putative pederin biosynthesis genes were cloned from total DNA of Paederus fuscipes beetles, which use this compound for chemical defense. Sequence analysis of the gene cluster and adjacent regions revealed the presence of ORFs with typical bacterial architecture and homologies. The ped cluster, which is present only in beetle specimens with high pederin content, is located on a 54-kb region bordered by transposase pseudogenes and encodes a mixed modular polyketide synthase/nonribosomal peptide synthetase. Notably, none of the modules contains regions with homology to acyltransferase domains, but two copies of isolated monodomain acyltransferase genes were found at the upstream end of the cluster. In line with an involvement in pederin biosynthesis, the upstream cluster region perfectly mirrors pederin structure. The unexpected presence of additional polyketide synthase/nonribosomal peptide synthetase modules reveals surprising insights into the evolutionary relationship between pederin-type pathways in beetles and sponges.

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