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J Am Chem Soc. 2010 Jun 2;132(21):7519-27. doi: 10.1021/ja102339q.

Manipulation of thiocillin variants by prepeptide gene replacement: structure, conformation, and activity of heterocycle substitution mutants.

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Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Bacillus cereus ATCC 14579 converts the C-terminal 14 residues of a 52-mer prepeptide into a related set of eight variants of the thiocillin subclass of thiazolyl peptide antibiotics by a cascade of post-translational modifications that alter 13 of those 14 residues. We have introduced prepeptide gene variants into a knockout strain to conduct an alanine scan of all 14 progenitor residues, as well as a serine scan of the six cysteine residues that are converted to thiazoles in the mature natural product. No mature scaffolds were detected for the S1A and S10A mutants, consistent with their roles as the source of the pyridine core. In both the alanine and serine scans, only one substitution mutant failed to produce a mature scaffold: cysteine 11. Cysteine to serine mutants gave mixture of dehydrations, aromatizations, and unaltered alcohol side chains depending on position. Overall, substitutions that altered the trithiazolylpyridine core or reduced the conformational rigidity of the 26-membered macrocyclic loop led to loss of antibiotic activity. In total, 21 peptide mutants were cultured, from which production of 107 compounds was observed and 94 compounds, representing 17 structural mutants, were assayed for antibiotic activity. High-resolution NMR solution structures were determined for one mutant and one wild-type compound. These structures demonstrate that the tight conformational rigidity of the natural product is severely disrupted by loss of even a single heterocycle, perhaps accounting for the attendant loss of activity in such mutants.

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