Lovastatin biosynthesis in Aspergillus terreus: characterization of blocked mutants, enzyme activities and a multifunctional polyketide synthase gene

Chem Biol. 1999 Jul;6(7):429-39. doi: 10.1016/s1074-5521(99)80061-1.


Background: Lovastatin, an HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor produced by the fungus Aspergillus terreus, is composed of two polyketide chains. One is a nonaketide that undergoes cyclization to a hexahydronaphthalene ring system and the other is a simple diketide, 2-methylbutyrate. Fungal polyketide synthase (PKS) systems are of great interest and their genetic manipulation should lead to novel compounds.

Results: An A. terreus mutant (BX102) was isolated that could not synthesize the nonaketide portion of lovastatin and was missing a approximately 250 kDa polypeptide normally present under conditions of lovastatin production. Other mutants produced lovastatin intermediates without the methylbutyryl sidechain and were missing a polypeptide of approximately 220 kDa. The PKS inhibitor cerulenin reacted covalently with both polypeptides. Antiserum raised against the approximately 250 kDa polypeptide was used to isolate the corresponding gene, which complemented the BX102 mutation. The gene encodes a polypeptide of 269 kDa containing catalytic domains typical of vertebrate fatty acid and fungal PKSs, plus two additional domains not previously seen in PKSs: a centrally located methyltransferase domain and a peptide synthetase elongation domain at the carboxyl terminus.

Conclusions: The results show that the nonaketide and diketide portions of lovastatin are synthesized by separate large multifunctional PKSs. Elucidation of the primary structure of the PKS that forms the lovastatin nonaketide, as well as characterization of blocked mutants, provides new details of lovastatin biosynthesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Aspergillus / enzymology
  • Aspergillus / genetics
  • Aspergillus / metabolism*
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Gene Library
  • Lovastatin / biosynthesis*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multienzyme Complexes / genetics*
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism
  • Software


  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Lovastatin

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF151722