Chemistry of a Unique Polyketide-like Synthase

J Am Chem Soc. 2018 Feb 21;140(7):2430-2433. doi: 10.1021/jacs.7b13297. Epub 2018 Feb 8.


Like many complex natural products, the intricate architecture of saxitoxin (STX) has hindered full exploration of this scaffold's utility as a tool for studying voltage-gated sodium ion channels and as a pharmaceutical agent. Established chemical strategies can provide access to the natural product; however, a chemoenzymatic route to saxitoxin that could provide expedited access to related compounds has not been devised. The first step toward realizing a chemoenzymatic approach toward this class of molecules is the elucidation of the saxitoxin biosynthetic pathway. To date, a biochemical link between STX and its putative biosynthetic enzymes has not been demonstrated. Herein, we report the first biochemical characterization of any enzyme involved in STX biosynthesis. Specifically, the chemical functions of a polyketide-like synthase, SxtA, from the cyanobacteria Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii T3 are elucidated. This unique megasynthase is comprised of four domains: methyltransferase (MT), GCN5-related N-acetyltransferase (GNAT), acyl carrier protein (ACP), and the first example of an 8-amino-7-oxononanoate synthase (AONS) associated with a multidomain synthase. We have established that this single polypeptide carries out the formation of two carbon-carbon bonds, two decarboxylation events and a stereospecific protonation to afford the linear biosynthetic precursor to STX (4). The synthetic utility of the SxtA AONS is demonstrated by the synthesis of a suite of α-amino ketones from the corresponding α-amino acid in a single step.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cylindrospermopsis / enzymology*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Polyketide Synthases / chemistry
  • Polyketide Synthases / metabolism*
  • Saxitoxin / biosynthesis*
  • Saxitoxin / chemistry


  • Saxitoxin
  • Polyketide Synthases