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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

A new pathway for polyketide synthesis in microorganisms.

Chalcone synthases, which biosynthesize chalcones (the starting materials for many flavonoids), have been believed to be specific to plants. However, the rppA gene from the Gram-positive, soil-living filamentous bacterium Streptomyces griseus encodes a 372-amino-acid protein that shows significant similarity to chalcone synthases. Several rppA-like genes are known, but their functions and catalytic properties have not been described. Here we show that a homodimer of RppA catalyses polyketide synthesis: it selects malonyl-coenzyme-A as the starter, carries out four successive extensions and releases the resulting pentaketide to cyclize to 1,3,6,8-tetrahydroxynaphthalene (THN). Site-directed mutagenesis revealed that, as in other chalcone synthases, a cysteine residue is essential for enzyme activity. Disruption of the chromosomal rppA gene in S. griseus abolished melanin production in hyphae, resulting in 'albino' mycelium. THN was readily oxidized to form 2,5,7-trihydroxy-1,4-naphthoquinone (flaviolin), which then randomly polymerized to form various coloured compounds. THN formed by RppA appears to be an intermediate in the biosynthetic pathways for not only melanins but also various secondary metabolites containing a naphthoquinone ring. Therefore, RppA is a chalcone-synthase-related synthase that synthesizes polyketides and is found in the Streptomyces and other bacteria.[1]


  1. A new pathway for polyketide synthesis in microorganisms. Funa, N., Ohnishi, Y., Fujii, I., Shibuya, M., Ebizuka, Y., Horinouchi, S. Nature (1999) [Pubmed]
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