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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 1998 Sep;62(3):547-85.

Molecular regulation of beta-lactam biosynthesis in filamentous fungi.

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Lehrstuhl für Mikrobiologie, Universität München, D-80638 Munich, Germany.


The most commonly used beta-lactam antibiotics for the therapy of infectious diseases are penicillin and cephalosporin. Penicillin is produced as an end product by some fungi, most notably by Aspergillus (Emericella) nidulans and Penicillium chrysogenum. Cephalosporins are synthesized by both bacteria and fungi, e.g., by the fungus Acremonium chrysogenum (Cephalosporium acremonium). The biosynthetic pathways leading to both secondary metabolites start from the same three amino acid precursors and have the first two enzymatic reactions in common. Penicillin biosynthesis is catalyzed by three enzymes encoded by acvA (pcbAB), ipnA (pcbC), and aatA (penDE). The genes are organized into a cluster. In A. chrysogenum, in addition to acvA and ipnA, a second cluster contains the genes encoding enzymes that catalyze the reactions of the later steps of the cephalosporin pathway (cefEF and cefG). Within the last few years, several studies have indicated that the fungal beta-lactam biosynthesis genes are controlled by a complex regulatory network, e. g., by the ambient pH, carbon source, and amino acids. A comparison with the regulatory mechanisms (regulatory proteins and DNA elements) involved in the regulation of genes of primary metabolism in lower eukaryotes is thus of great interest. This has already led to the elucidation of new regulatory mechanisms. Furthermore, such investigations have contributed to the elucidation of signals leading to the production of beta-lactams and their physiological meaning for the producing fungi, and they can be expected to have a major impact on rational strain improvement programs. The knowledge of biosynthesis genes has already been used to produce new compounds.

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