Expanding Extender Substrate Selection for Unnatural Polyketide Biosynthesis by Acyltransferase Domain Exchange within a Modular Polyketide Synthase

J Am Chem Soc. 2023 Apr 26;145(16):8822-8832. doi: 10.1021/jacs.2c11027. Epub 2023 Apr 14.


Modular polyketide synthases (PKSs) are polymerases that employ α-carboxyacyl-CoAs as extender substrates. This enzyme family contains several catalytic modules, where each module is responsible for a single round of polyketide chain extension. Although PKS modules typically use malonyl-CoA or methylmalonyl-CoA for chain elongation, many other malonyl-CoA analogues are used to diversify polyketide structures in nature. Previously, we developed a method to alter an extension substrate of a given module by exchanging an acyltransferase (AT) domain while maintaining protein folding. Here, we report in vitro polyketide biosynthesis by 13 PKSs (the wild-type PKS and 12 AT-exchanged PKSs with unusual ATs) and 14 extender substrates. Our ∼200 in vitro reactions resulted in 13 structurally different polyketides, including several polyketides that have not been reported. In some cases, AT-exchanged PKSs produced target polyketides by >100-fold compared to the wild-type PKS. These data also indicate that most unusual AT domains do not incorporate malonyl-CoA and methylmalonyl-CoA but incorporate various rare extender substrates that are equal to in size or slightly larger than natural substrates. We developed a computational workflow to predict the approximate AT substrate range based on active site volumes to support the selection of ATs. These results greatly enhance our understanding of rare AT domains and demonstrate the benefit of using the proposed PKS engineering strategy to produce novel chemicals in vitro.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acyltransferases / chemistry
  • Catalytic Domain
  • Polyketide Synthases* / metabolism
  • Polyketides* / metabolism
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Polyketide Synthases
  • Acyltransferases
  • Polyketides