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Chem Biol. 1996 Mar;3(3):193-6.

Deciphering the biosynthetic origin of the aglycone of the aureolic acid group of anti-tumor agents.

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Departmento de Biologia Funcional e Instituto Universitario de Biotecnologia de Asturias, Universidad de Oviedo, 33006 Oviedo, Spain.



Mithramycin, chromomycin, and olivomycin belong to the aureolic acid family of clinically important anti-tumor agents. These natural products share a common aromatic aglycone. Although isotope labeling studies have firmly established the polyketide origin of this aglycone, they do not distinguish between alternative biosynthetic models in which the aglycone is derived from one, two or three distinct polyketide moieties. We set out to determine the biosynthetic origin of this moiety using a recombinant approach in which the ketosynthase and chain-length factor proteins from the antibiotic-producer strain, which determine the chain length of a polyketide, are produced in a heterologous bacterial host.


The ketosynthase and chain-length factor genes from the polyketide synthase gene cluster from the mithramycin producer, Streptomyces argillaceus ATCC 12956, and the acyl carrier protein and ketoreductase genes from the actinorhodin polyketide synthase were expressed in Streptomyces coelicolor CH999. The recombinant strain produced a 20-carbon polyketide, comprising the complete backbone of the aglycone of mithramycin.


The aglycone moieties of mithramycin, chromomycin, and olivomycin are derived from a single polyketide backbone. The nascent polyketide backbone must undergo a series of regiospecific cyclizations to form a tetracenomycin-like tetracyclic intermediate. The final steps in the aglycone biosynthetic pathway presumably involve decarboxylation and oxidative cleavage between C-18 and C-19, followed by additional oxidation, reduction, and methylation reactions.

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