Metagenome Mining Reveals Polytheonamides as Posttranslationally Modified Ribosomal Peptides

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Science  13 Sep 2012:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1226121

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It is held as a paradigm that ribosomally synthesized peptides and proteins contain only l-amino acids. We demonstrate a ribosomal origin of the marine sponge–derived polytheonamides, exceptionally potent, giant natural product toxins. Isolation of the biosynthetic genes from the sponge metagenome revealed a bacterial gene architecture. Only six candidate enzymes were identified for 48 posttranslational modifications, including 18 epimerizations and 17 methylations of nonactivated carbon centers. Three enzymes were functionally validated, which showed that a radical SAM enzyme is responsible for the unidirectional epimerization of multiple and different amino acids. Collectively, these complex alterations create toxins that function as unimolecular minimalistic ion channels with near-femtomolar activity. This study broadens the biosynthetic scope of ribosomal systems, creating new opportunities for peptide and protein bioengineering.

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