Structures and Mechanisms of Polyketide Synthases

J Org Chem. 2009 Sep 4;74(17):6416-20. doi: 10.1021/jo9012089.


Nearly a quarter-century ago, the advent of molecular genetic tools in the field of natural product biosynthesis led to the remarkable revelation that the genes responsible for the biosynthesis, regulation, and self-resistance of complex polyketide antibiotics were clustered in the genomes of the bacteria that produced these compounds. This in turn facilitated rapid cloning and sequencing of genes encoding a number of polyketide synthases (PKSs). By now, it is abundantly clear that, notwithstanding extraordinary architectural and biocatalytic diversity, all PKSs are evolutionarily related enzyme assemblies. As such, understanding the molecular logic for the biosynthesis of literally thousands of amazing polyketide natural products made by nature can benefit enormously from detailed investigations into a few "model systems". For nearly the past two decades, our laboratory has focused its efforts on two such PKSs. One of them synthesizes two polyketides in approximately equal ratios, SEK4 and SEK4b, and both shunt products from the pathway that leads to the biosynthesis of the pigmented antibiotic actinorhodin. The other synthesizes 6-deoxyerythronolide B, the first isolable intermediate in the biosynthetic pathway for the widely used antibacterial agent erythromycin. Our present-day knowledge of the structures and mechanisms of these two PKSs is summarized here.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anthraquinones / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Catalysis
  • Erythromycin / analogs & derivatives
  • Erythromycin / chemistry
  • Genetic Techniques
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Chemical
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Molecular Structure
  • Polyketide Synthases / chemistry*


  • Anthraquinones
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • 6-deoxyerythronolide B
  • Erythromycin
  • Polyketide Synthases
  • actinorhodin