Jul 8, 2008

A new way to make polyketides

A model of the PKS12 proteinPolyketides are a class of natural products isolated from microbes, plants and invertebrates which includes an impressive number of clinically effective drugs with diverse activities. To name a few examples: erythromycin (antibiotic), rapamycin (immunosuppressive), amphotericin (antifungal), avermectin (antiparasitic), and doxorubicin (anticancer). As other natural products do, polyketides may play disparate roles in the producing organisms, from defensive weapons (inhibiting growth of competitors, or acting against predators) to signaling molecules (working as messengers between social organisms). In Mycobacterium tuberculosis, some polyketides are key intermediates in the synthesis of complex lipids. These lipids are important components of the unusually thick cell envelope, and help the microbe to be a successful pathogen. Therefore, the study of polyketide synthesis in this bacterium may lead to the design of specific inhibitors as new anti-mycobacterial drugs.

ResearchBlogging.orgPolyketides are produced through a stepwise condensation of simple carboxylic acid precursors, resembling fatty acid biosythesis. This task is performed by enzymes known as polyketide synthases (PKSs). There are several types of PKSs, from relatively simple proteins to large multienzymatic complexes possessing tens of catalytic sites. They use any of two general mechanisms: (1) modular — in which each set of catalytic sites is used only once during the biosynthetic process, and (2) iterative — in which the same set of active sites is used repeatedly. This week in PLoS Biology, Rajesh Gokhale and colleagues present their research involving a peculiar PKS from M. tuberculosis. The PKS12 protein is encoded by the largest gene in the microbe's genome, and participates in the synthesis of an antigenic phosphoglycolipid. Most remarkably, this PKS appears to use a new hybrid "modularly iterative" mechanism for polyketide synthesis. Several molecules of the PKS12 protein join together to form a supramolecular assembly, which performs repetitive cycles of iterations. The protein assembly is formed by specific intermolecular interactions between N- and C-terminus linkers. This study provides another example of the catalytic and mechanistic versatility of PKSs — natural product biosynthesis is an inexhaustible source for new biochemistry!

Citation (open access):
Chopra T, Banerjee S, Gupta S, Yadav G, Anand S, Surolia A, Roy RP, Mohanty D, Gokhale RS (2008). Novel intermolecular iterative mechanism for biosynthesis of mycoketide catalyzed by a bimodular polyketide synthase. PLoS Biology 6(7), e163. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060163

Image: model of the PKS12 protein, modified from Figure 5 of the cited article.

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