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J Am Chem Soc. 2009 Dec 23;131(50):18066-8. doi: 10.1021/ja907307h.

Biosynthetic studies of aziridine formation in azicemicins.

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Division of Medicinal Chemistry, College of Pharmacy, and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712, USA.


The azicemicins, which are angucycline-type antibiotics produced by the actinomycete, Kibdelosporangium sp. MJ126-NF4, contain an aziridine ring attached to the polyketide core. Feeding experiments using [1-(13)C]acetate or [1,2-(13)C(2)]acetate indicated that the angucycline skeleton is biosynthesized by a type II polyketide synthase. Isotope-tracer experiments using deuterium-labeled amino acids revealed that aspartic acid is the precursor of the aziridine moiety. Subsequent cloning and sequencing efforts led to the identification of the azicemicin (azic) gene cluster spanning approximately 50 kbp. The cluster harbors genes typical for type II polyketide synthesis. Also contained in the cluster are genes for two adenylyl transferases, a decarboxylase, an additional acyl carrier protein (ACP), and several oxygenases. On the basis of the assigned functions of these genes, a possible pathway for aziridine ring formation in the azecimicins can now be proposed. To obtain support for the proposed biosynthetic pathway, two genes encoding adenylyltransferases were overexpressed and the resulting proteins were purified. Enzyme assays showed that one of the adenylyltransferases specifically recognizes aspartic acid, providing strong evidence, in addition to the feeding experiments, that aspartate is the precursor of the aziridine moiety. The results reported herein set the stage for future biochemical studies of aziridine biosynthesis and assembly.

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