According to the World Health Organization (WHO) bacterial resistance to antibiotic drug therapy is emerging as a major public health problem around the world. Infectious diseases seriously threaten the health and economy of all countries. Hence, the preservation of the effectiveness of antibiotics is a world wide priority. The key to preserving the power of antibiotics lies in maintaining their diversity. Many microorganisms are capable of producing these bioactive products, the so called antibiotics. Specifically in microorganisms, polyketide synthases (PKS) and non-ribosomal peptide synthases (NRPS) produce these natural bioactive compounds. Besides being used as antibiotics these non-ribosomal peptides and polyketides display an even broader spectrum of biological activities, e.g. as antivirals, immunosuppressants or in antitumor therapy. The wide functional spectrum of the peptides and ketides is due to their structural diversity. Mostly they are cyclic or branched cyclic compounds, containing non-proteinogenic amino acids, small heterocyclic rings and other unusual modifications such as epimerization, methylation, N‐formylation or heterocyclization. It is has been shown that these modifications are important for biological activity, but little is known about their biosynthetic origin.
PKS and NRPS are multidomain protein assembly lines which function by sequentially elongating a growing polyketide or peptide chain by incorporating acyl units or amino acids, respectively. The growing product is attached via a thioester linkage to the 4’-phosphopantetheine (4’-Ppant) arm of a holo acyl carrier protein (ACP) in PKSs or holo peptidyl carrier protein (PCP) in NRPSs and is passed from one module to another along the chain of reaction centers. The modular arrangement makes PKS and NRPS systems an interesting target for protein engineering. More than 200 novel polyketide compounds have already been created by module swapping, gene deletion or other specific manipulations. Unfortunately, however, engineered PKS often fail to produce significant amounts of the desired products. Structural studies may faciliate yield improvement from engineered systems by providing a more complete understanding of the interface between the different domains. While some information about domain-domain interactions, involving the most common enzymatic modules, ketosynthase and acyltransferase, is starting to emerge, little is known about the interaction of ACP domains with other modifying enzymes such as methyltransferases, epimerases or halogenases.
To further improve the understanding of domain-domain interactions this work focuses on the curacin A assembly line. Curacin A, which exhibits anti-mitotic activity, is from the marine cyanobacterium Lyngbya majuscula. This outstanding natural product contains a cyclopropane ring, a thiazoline ring, an internal cis double bond and a terminal alkene. The biosynthesis of curacin A is performed by a 2.2 Mega Dalton (MDa) hybrid PKS-NRPS cluster. A 10-enzyme assembly catalyzes the formation of the cyclopropane moiety as the first building block of the final product. Interestingly, for these enzymes the substrate is presented by an unusual cluster of three consecutive ACPs (ACPI,II,III). Little is known about the function of multiple ACPs which are supposed to increase the overall flux for enhanced production of secondary metabolites.
The first task in this work was to elucidate the structural effect of the triplet ACP repetition by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). The initial data show that the excised ACPI, ACPII or ACPIII proteins resulted in [15N, 1H]-TROSY spectra with strong chemical shift perturbations (CSPs), suggesting an effect on the structure. The triplet ACP domains display a high sequence identity (93- 100%) making structural investigation using usual NMR techniques due to high peak overlap impossible. To enable the investigation of the triplet ACP in its native composition we developed a powerful method, the three fragment ligation. Segmental labeling allows incorporating isotopes into one single domain in its multidomain context. As a result we could prepare the triplet ACP with only one domain isotopically labeled and therefore assign the full length protein. In this way our method paved the way to study the structural effects of the triplet ACP repetition. We could show unexpectedly, that, despite the fact that the triplet repeat of CurA ACPI,II,III has a synergistic effect in the biosynthesis of CurA, the domains are structurally independent.
In the second part of this work, we studied the structure of the isolated ACPI domain. Our results show that the CurA ACPI undergoes no major conformational changes upon activation via phosphopantetheinylation and therefore contradicts the conformational switching model which has been proposed for PCPs. Further we report the NMR solution structures of holo-ACPI and 3-hydroxyl-3-methylglutaryl (HMG)-ACPI. Data obtained from filtered nuclear overhauser effect (NOE) experiments indicate that the substrate HMG is not sequestered but presented on the ACP surface.
In the third part of this work we focussed on the protein-protein interactions of the isolated ACPI with its cognate interaction partners. We were especially interested in the interaction with the halogenase (Cur Hal), the first enzyme within the curacin A sub-cluster, acting on the initial hydroxyl-methyl-glutaryl (HMG) attached to ACPI. Primarily we studied the interaction using NMR titration and fluorescence anisotropy measurements. Surprisingly no complex between ACPI and Cur Hal could be detected. The combination of an activity assay using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) mass spectroscopy and mutational analysis revealed several amino acids of ACPI that strongly decrease the activity of CurA Hal. Mapping these mutations according to their effect on the Cur Hal activity onto the structure of HMG-ACPI displays that these amino acids surround the substrate and form a consecutive surface. These results suggest that this surface is important for Cur Hal recognition and selectivity. Our research presented herein is an excellent example for protein-protein interactions in PKS systems underlying a specific recognition process.