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Nature. 1990 Nov 8;348(6297):176-8.

An unusually large multifunctional polypeptide in the erythromycin-producing polyketide synthase of Saccharopolyspora erythraea.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, UK.


Erythromycin A, a clinically important polyketide antibiotic, is produced by the Gram-positive bacterium Saccharopolyspora erythraea. In an arrangement that seems to be generally true of antibiotic biosynthetic genes in Streptomyces and related bacteria like S. erythraea, the ery genes encoding the biosynthetic pathway to erythromycin are clustered around the gene (ermE) that confers self-resistance on S. erythraea. The aglycone core of erythromycin A is derived from one propionyl-CoA and six methylmalonyl-CoA units, which are incorporated head-to-tail into the growing polyketide chain, in a process similar to that of fatty-acid biosynthesis, to generate a macrolide intermediate, 6-deoxyerythronolide B. 6-Deoxyerythronolide B is converted into erythromycin A through the action of specific hydroxylases, glycosyltransferases and a methyltransferase. We report here the analysis of about 10 kilobases of DNA from S. erythraea, cloned by chromosome 'walking' outwards from the erythromycin-resistance determinant ermE, and previously shown to be essential for erythromycin biosynthesis. Partial sequencing of this region indicates that it encodes the synthase. Our results confirm this, and reveal a novel organization of the erythromycin-producing polyketide synthase, which provides further insight into the mechanism of chain assembly.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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