Background: Myxobacteria have been well established as a potent source for natural products with biological activity. They produce a considerable variety of compounds which represent typical polyketide structures with incorporated amino acids (e.g. the epothilons, the myxothiazols and the myxalamids). Several of these secondary metabolites are effective inhibitors of the electron transport via the respiratory chain and have been widely used. Molecular cloning and characterization of the genes governing the biosynthesis of these structures is of considerable interest, because such information adds to the limited knowledge as to how polyketide synthases (PKSs) and non-ribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPSs) interact and how they might be manipulated in order to form novel antibiotics.
Results: A DNA region of approximately 50000 base pairs from Stigmatella aurantiaca Sga15 was sequenced and shown by gene disruption to be involved in myxalamid biosynthesis. Sequence analysis reveals that the myxalamids are formed by a combined PKS/NRPS system. The terminal NRPS MxaA extends the assembled polyketide chain of the myxalamids with alanine. MxaA contains an N-terminal domain with homology to NAD binding proteins, which is responsible during the biogenesis for a novel type of reductive chain release giving rise to the 2-amino-propanol moiety of the myxalamids. The last module of the PKS reveals an unprecedented genetic organization; it is encoded on two genes (mxaB1 and mxaB2), subdividing the domains of one module from each other. A sequence comparison of myxobacterial acyl-transferase domains with known systems from streptomycetes and bacilli reveals that consensus sequences proposed to be specific for methylmalonyl-CoA and malonyl-CoA are not always reliable.
Conclusions: The complete biosynthetic gene cluster of the myxalamid-type electron transport inhibitor from S. aurantiaca Sga15 has been cloned and analyzed. It represents one of the few examples of combined PKS/NRPS systems, the analysis and manipulation of which has the potential to generate novel hybrid structures via combinatorial biosynthesis (e.g. via module-swapping techniques). Additionally, a new type of reductive release from PKS/NRPS systems is described.