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Curr Opin Chem Biol. 1997 Aug;1(2):162-8.

Combinatorial approaches to polyketide biosynthesis.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1QW, UK.


Polyketides are a large and structurally diverse family of natural products based on chains of carboxylic acid units. The polyketide synthases that make aromatic polyketides have already been used to generate small combinatorial libraries, by expressing individual genes from different biosynthetic pathways together, so that the enzymes they encode can interact to make novel products. Recent work has shown how to choose these individual components to increase the chances of obtaining such hybrid aromatic compounds. In other polyketide synthases which synthesise complex reduced polyketides, the constituent enzymes are actually linked as domains in a giant multienzyme complex along which the growing polyketide chain is passed. A combinatorial approach here therefore requires the fusing together of individual enzymatic domains from several such synthases in as many productive ways as can be devised, so that the enzyme assembly line produces a library of altered products. A key recent advance has been to demonstrate that such genuinely hybrid enzymes do work as predicted, for example a broad-specificity enzyme that recruits the chain starter unit for an antiparasitic compound has been grafted onto a synthase that makes antimicrobial macrolides.

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