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Nat Commun. 2013;4:2603. doi: 10.1038/ncomms3603.

Microbial biosynthesis of the anticoagulant precursor 4-hydroxycoumarin.

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College of Engineering, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA.


4-Hydroxycoumarin (4HC) type anticoagulants (for example, warfarin) are known to have a significant role in the treatment of thromboembolic diseases--a leading cause of patient morbidity and mortality worldwide. 4HC serves as an immediate precursor of these synthetic anticoagulants. Although 4HC was initially identified as a naturally occurring product, its biosynthesis has not been fully elucidated. Here we present the design, validation, in vitro diagnosis and optimization of an artificial biosynthetic mechanism leading to the microbial biosynthesis of 4HC. Remarkably, function-based enzyme bioprospecting leads to the identification of a characteristic FabH-like quinolone synthase from Pseudomonas aeruginosa with high efficiency on the 4HC-forming reaction, which promotes the high-level de novo biosynthesis of 4HC in Escherichia coli (~500 mg l⁻¹ in shake flasks) and further in situ semisynthesis of warfarin. This work has the potential to be scaled-up for microbial production of 4HC and opens up the possibility of biosynthesizing diverse coumarin molecules with pharmaceutical importance.

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