Mycocerosic acid synthase exemplifies the architecture of reducing polyketide synthases.

PMID 26976449


Polyketide synthases (PKSs) are biosynthetic factories that produce natural products with important biological and pharmacological activities. Their exceptional product diversity is encoded in a modular architecture. Modular PKSs (modPKSs) catalyse reactions colinear to the order of modules in an assembly line, whereas iterative PKSs (iPKSs) use a single module iteratively as exemplified by fungal iPKSs (fiPKSs). However, in some cases non-colinear iterative action is also observed for modPKSs modules and is controlled by the assembly line environment. PKSs feature a structural and functional separation into a condensing and a modifying region as observed for fatty acid synthases. Despite the outstanding relevance of PKSs, the detailed organization of PKSs with complete fully reducing modifying regions remains elusive. Here we report a hybrid crystal structure of Mycobacterium smegmatis mycocerosic acid synthase based on structures of its condensing and modifying regions. Mycocerosic acid synthase is a fully reducing iPKS, closely related to modPKSs, and the prototype of mycobacterial mycocerosic acid synthase-like PKSs. It is involved in the biosynthesis of C20-C28 branched-chain fatty acids, which are important virulence factors of mycobacteria. Our structural data reveal a dimeric linker-based organization of the modifying region and visualize dynamics and conformational coupling in PKSs. On the basis of comparative small-angle X-ray scattering, the observed modifying region architecture may be common also in modPKSs. The linker-based organization provides a rationale for the characteristic variability of PKS modules as a main contributor to product diversity. The comprehensive architectural model enables functional dissection and re-engineering of PKSs.