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Phytochemistry. 2009 Oct-Nov;70(15-16):1858-66. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2009.05.021. Epub 2009 Jul 18.

Evolution of metabolic diversity: insights from microbial polyketide synthases.

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Humboldt University Berlin, Institute of Biology, Department of Molecular Ecology, Berlin, Germany.


Polyketides are a family of complex natural products that are built from simple carboxylic acid building blocks. In microorganisms, the majority of these secondary metabolites are produced by exceptionally large, multifunctional proteins termed polyketide synthases (PKSs). Each unit of a type I PKS assembly line resembles a mammalian type fatty acid synthase (FAS), although certain domains are optionally missing. The evolutionary analysis of microbial PKS has revealed a long joint evolution process of PKSs and FASs. The phylogenomic analysis of modular type I PKSs as the most widespread PKS type in bacteria showed a large impact of gene duplications and gene losses on the evolution of type I PKS in different bacterial groups. The majority of type I PKSs in actinobacteria and cyanobacteria may have evolved from a common ancestor, whereas in proteobacteria most type I PKSs were acquired from other bacterial groups. The modularization of type I PKSs almost unexceptionally started with multiple duplications of a single ancestor module. The repeating modules represent ideal platforms for recombination events that can lead to corresponding changes in the actual chemistry of the products. The analysis of these "natural reprogramming" events of PKSs may assist in the development of concepts for the biocombinatorial design of bioactive compounds.

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