Probing the structure and function of acyl carrier proteins to unlock the strategic redesign of type II polyketide biosynthetic pathways

J Biol Chem. 2021 Jan-Jun:296:100328. doi: 10.1016/j.jbc.2021.100328. Epub 2021 Jan 23.


Type II polyketide synthases (PKSs) are protein assemblies, encoded by biosynthetic gene clusters in microorganisms, that manufacture structurally complex and pharmacologically relevant molecules. Acyl carrier proteins (ACPs) play a central role in biosynthesis by shuttling malonyl-based building blocks and polyketide intermediates to catalytic partners for chemical transformations. Because ACPs serve as central hubs in type II PKSs, they can also represent roadblocks to successfully engineering synthases capable of manufacturing 'unnatural natural products.' Therefore, understanding ACP conformational dynamics and protein interactions is essential to enable the strategic redesign of type II PKSs. However, the inherent flexibility and transience of ACP interactions pose challenges to gaining insight into ACP structure and function. In this review, we summarize how the application of chemical probes and molecular dynamic simulations has increased our understanding of the structure and function of type II PKS ACPs. We also share how integrating these advances in type II PKS ACP research with newfound access to key enzyme partners, such as the ketosynthase-chain length factor, sets the stage to unlock new biosynthetic potential.

Keywords: acyl carrier protein (ACP); biosynthesis; fatty acid; polyketide; protein crosslinking.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acyl Carrier Protein / chemistry*
  • Acyl Carrier Protein / metabolism*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Biosynthetic Pathways
  • Molecular Probes / chemistry
  • Polyketide Synthases / chemistry
  • Polyketide Synthases / metabolism
  • Polyketides / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Acyl Carrier Protein
  • Molecular Probes
  • Polyketides
  • Polyketide Synthases