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Epothilones are produced by the myxobacterium Sorangium cellulosum So ce90, and, like paclitaxel (Taxol((R))), they inhibit microtubule depolymerisation and arrest the cell cycle at the G2-M phase. They are effective against P-glycoprotein-expressing multiple-drug-resistant tumor cell lines and are more water soluble than paclitaxel. The total synthesis of epothilones has been achieved, but has not provided an economically viable alternative to fermentation. We set out to clone, sequence and analyze the gene cluster responsible for the biosynthesis of the epothilones in S. cellulosum So ce90.

A cluster of 22 open reading frames spanning 68,750 base pairs of the S. cellulosum So ce90 genome has been sequenced and found to encode nine modules of a polyketide synthase (PKS), one module of a nonribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS), a cytochrome P450, and two putative antibiotic transport proteins. Disruptions in the genes encoding the PKS abolished epothilone production. The first PKS module and the NRPS module are proposed to co-operate in forming the thiazole heterocycle of epothilone from an acetate and a cysteine by condensation, cyclodehydration and subsequent dehydrogenation. The remaining eight PKS modules are responsible for the elaboration of the rest of the epothilone carbon skeleton.

The overall architecture of the gene cluster responsible for epothilone biosynthesis has been determined. The availability of the cluster should facilitate the generation of designer epothilones by combinatorial biosynthesis approaches, and the heterologous expression of epothilones in surrogate microbial hosts.

An open reading frame (rapP) encoding the putative pipecolate-incorporating enzyme (PIE) has been identified in the gene cluster for the biosynthesis of rapamycin in Streptomyces hygroscopicus. Conserved amino acid sequence motifs for ATP binding, ATP hydrolysis, adenylate formation, and 4'-phosphopantetheine attachment were identified by sequence comparison with authentic peptide synthetases. Disruption of rapP by phage insertion abolished rapamycin production in S. hygroscopicus, and the production of the antibiotic was specifically restored upon loss of the inserted phage by a second recombination event. rapP was expressed in both Escherichia coli and Streptomyces coelicolor, and recombinant PIE was purified to homogeneity from both hosts. Although low-level incorporation of [14C]beta-alanine into recombinant PIE isolated from E. coli was detected, formation of the covalent acylenzyme intermediate could only be shown with the PIE from S. coelicolor, suggesting that while the recombinant PIE from S. coelicolor was phosphopantetheinylated, only a minor proportion of the recombinant enzyme from E. coli was post-translationally modified.

The three giant multifunctional polypeptides of the rapamycin (Rp)-producing polyketide synthase (RAPS1, RAPS2 and RAPS3) have recently been shown to contain 14 separate sets, or modules, of enzyme activities, each module catalysing a specific round of polyketide chain extension. Detailed sequence comparison between these protein modules has allowed further characterisation of aa that may be important in catalysis or specificity. The acyl-carrier protein (ACP), beta-ketoacyl-ACP synthase (KS) and acyltransferase (AT) domains (the core domains) have an extremely high degree of mutual sequence homology. The KS domains in particular are almost perfect repeats over their entire length. Module 14 shows the least homology and is unique in possessing only core domains. The enoyl reductase (ER), beta-ketoacyl-ACP reductase (KR) and dehydratase (DH) domains are present even in certain modules where they are not apparently required. Four DH domains can be recognised as inactive by characteristic deletions in active site sequences, but for two others, and for KR and ER in module 3, the sequence is not distinguishable from that of active counterparts in other modules. The N terminus of RAPS1 contains a novel coenzyme A ligase (CL) domain that activates and attaches the shikimate-derived starter unit, and an ER activity that may modify the starter unit after attachment. The sequence comparison has revealed the surprisingly high sequence similarity between inter-domain 'linker' regions, and also a potential amphipathic helix at the N terminus of each multienzyme subunit which may promote dimerisation into active species.

Analysis of the gene cluster from Streptomyces hygroscopicus that governs the biosynthesis of the polyketide immuno-suppressant rapamycin (Rp) has revealed that it contains three exceptionally large open reading frames (ORFs) encoding the modular polyketide synthase (PKS). Between two of these lies a fourth gene (rapP) encoding a pipecolate-incorporating enzyme that probably also catalyzes closure of the macrolide ring. On either side of these very large genes are ranged a total of 22 further ORFs before the limits of the cluster are reached, as judged by the identification of genes clearly encoding unrelated activities. Several of these ORFs appear to encode enzymes that would be required for Rp biosynthesis. These include two cytochrome P-450 monooxygenases (P450s), designated RapJ and RapN, an associated ferredoxin (Fd) RapO, and three potential SAM-dependent O-methyltransferases (MTases), RapI, RapM and RapQ. All of these are likely to be involved in 'late' modification of the macrocycle. The cluster also contains a novel gene (rapL) whose product is proposed to catalyze the formation of the Rp precursor, L-pipecolate, through the cyclodeamination of L-lysine. Adjacent genes have putative roles in Rp regulation and export. The codon usage of the PKS biosynthetic genes is markedly different from that of the flanking genes of the cluster.

The gene for 3-ketosteroid delta 1-dehydrogenase (ksdD) of Arthrobacter simplex was expressed in Streptomyces lividans and the secreted enzyme was overproduced by using a multi-copy shuttle vector composed of pIJ702 and pUC19. Deletional analysis of the recombinant plasmid showed that the entire coding sequence of the ksdD gene was located within a 7-kb segment of the chromosomal DNA obtained from the enzyme-producing strain of A. simplex. When S. lividans carrying the recombinant plasmid was grown in an appropriate medium, the cells produced about 100-fold more 3-ketosteroid delta 1-dehydrogenase than the original strain. Although the percentage of enzyme secreted was changed during cultivation, a maximum 55% of the enzyme was secreted into the cultured medium of S. lividans, while A. simplex did not produce the enzyme extracellularly. Secretory overproduction of 3-ketosteroid delta 1-dehydrogenase in S. lividans was also identified by sodium dodecyl sulfate/polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and on native gel, and the enzyme reaction was confirmed by reverse-phase HPLC using 4-androstene-3,17-dione as a substrate.

The 3-ketosteroid-delta 1-dehydrogenase (KS1DH) gene of Arthrobacter simplex IFO12069 cloned in Streptomyces lividans was overexpressed, resulting in production of the enzyme both extracellularly and intracellularly. The enzyme was purified by ammonium sulfate fractionation and chromatographies using DEAE-Toyopearl, Butyl-Toyopearl and Toyopearl HW55S from the supernatant of culture broth and cell-free extracts of S. lividans, and both preparations showed the same characteristics. The N-terminal amino acid sequence of both KS1DHs was M-D-W-A-E-E-Y-D, which coincided with the amino acid sequence deduced from the nucleotide sequence. Thus, the extracellular enzyme may derived from leakage of S. lividans cells during cultivation rather than secretion by processing of the signal sequence. The molecular weight of the enzyme was about 55,000, identical with the size deduced from the nucleotide sequence (M(r) 54,329). The optimum conditions for its activity were pH 10.0 and 40 degrees C. The enzyme catalyzed the conversion of several 3-keto-steroids, but those containing 11 alpha- or 11 beta-hydroxyl group were converted at low rates. The amino acid sequence of KS1DH from A. simplex is similar to those of KS1DH of Pseudomonas testosteroni and fumarate reductase from Shewanella putrefaciens.

The amino acid sequences of a large number of polyketide synthase domains that catalyse the transacylation of either methylmalonyl-CoA or malonyl-CoA onto acyl carrier protein (ACP) have been compared. Regions were identified in which the acyltransferase sequences diverged according to whether they were specific for malonyl-CoA or methylmalonyl-CoA. These differences are sufficiently clear to allow unambiguous assignment of newly-sequenced acyltransferase domains in modular polyketide synthases. Comparison with the recently-determined structure of the malonyltransferase from Escherichia coli fatty acid synthase showed that the divergent region thus identified lies near the acyltransferase active site, though not close enough to make direct contact with bound substrate.

The macrocyclic polyketides rapamycin and FK506 are potent immunosuppressants that prevent T-cell proliferation through specific binding to intracellular protein receptors (immunophilins). The cloning and specific alteration of the biosynthetic genes for these polyketides might allow the biosynthesis of clinically valuable analogues. We report here that three clustered polyketide synthase genes responsible for rapamycin biosynthesis in Streptomyces hygroscopicus together encode 14 homologous sets of enzyme activities (modules), each catalyzing a specific round of chain elongation. An adjacent gene encodes a pipecolate-incorporating enzyme, which completes the macrocycle. The total of 70 constituent active sites makes this the most complex multienzyme system identified so far. The DNA region sequenced (107.3 kbp) contains 24 additional open reading frames, some of which code for proteins governing other key steps in rapamycin biosynthesis.

The Arthrobacter simplex gene coding for 3-ketosteroid-delta 1-dehydrogenase, a key enzyme in the degradation of the steroid nucleus, was cloned in Streptomyces lividans. Nucleotide sequence analysis revealed that the gene for 3-ketosteroid-delta 1-dehydrogenase (ksdD) is clustered with at least two more genes possibly involved in steroid metabolism. Upstream of ksdD, we found a gene, ksdR, encoding a hypothetical regulatory protein that shows homologies to KdgR, the negative regulator of pectin biodegradation in Erwinia, and GyIR, the activator for glycerol metabolism in Steptomyces. A helix-turn-helix DNA-binding domain can be predicted at similar positions near the N-terminal of KsdR, KdgR and GyIR. ksdl adjoining downstream to ksdD codes for a protein that has strong similarities to 3-ketosteroid-delta 5-isomerases. The highly conserved Tyr and Asp residues are present in the active-centre motif of the enzyme. The translated ksdD gene product was found to be similar to the 3-ketosteroid-delta 1-dehydrogenase of Pseudomonas testosteroni and to the fumarate reductase of Shewanella putrefaciens. A region highly conserved between the two steroid dehydrogenases can be aligned to the active-centre motif of the fumarate reductase. S. lividans strains carrying the ksdD gene overexpressed 3-ketosteroid-delta 1-dehydrogenase. The expression of 3-ketosteroid-delta 5-isomerase, however, was barely detectable in recombinant S. lividans strains carrying the ksdl gene, or in the parental Arthrobacter strain.

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A new metabolite of cholesterol was found in reaction mixtures containing cholesterol or 4-cholesten-3-one as a substrate and extra- or intracellular protein extracts from recombinant Streptomyces lividans and Escherichia coli strains carrying cloned DNA fragments of Streptomyces sp. SA-COO, the producer of Streptomyces cholesterol oxidase. The new metabolite was identified as 4-cholesten-6-ol-3-one based on comparisons of its high-performance liquid chromatography, gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, infrared and proton-nuclear magnetic resonance spectra with those of an authentic standard. Genetic analyses showed that the enzyme responsible for the production of 4-cholesten-6-ol-3-one is cholesterol oxidase encoded by the choA gene. Commercially purified cholesterol oxidase (EC of a Streptomyces sp., as well as of Brevibacterium sterolicum and a Pseudomonas sp., and a highly purified recombinant Streptomyces cholesterol oxidase were also able to catalyse the 6-hydroxylation reaction. Hydrogen peroxide accumulating in the reaction mixtures as a consequence of the 3 beta-hydroxysteroid oxidase activity of the enzyme was shown to have no role in the formation of the 6-hydroxylated derivative. We propose a possible scheme of a branched reaction pathway for the concurrent formation of 4-cholesten-3-one and 4-cholesten-6-ol-3-one by cholesterol oxidase, and the observed differences in the rate of formation of the 6-hydroxy-ketosteroid by the enzymes of different bacterial sources are also discussed.

An important objective in environmental risk assessment is estimation of minimum exposure levels, called Benchmark Doses (BMDs), that induce a pre-specified Benchmark Response (BMR) in a dose-response experiment. In such settings, representations of the risk are traditionally based on a specified parametric model. It is a well-known concern, however, that existing parametric estimation techniques are sensitive to the form employed for modeling the dose response. If the chosen parametric model is in fact misspecified, this can lead to inaccurate low-dose inferences. Indeed, avoiding the impact of model selection was one early motivating issue behind development of the BMD technology. Here, we apply a frequentist model averaging approach for estimating benchmark doses, based on information-theoretic weights. We explore how the strategy can be used to build one-sided lower confidence limits on the BMD, and we study the confidence limits' small-sample properties via a simulation study. An example from environmental carcinogenicity testing illustrates the calculations. It is seen that application of this information-theoretic, model averaging methodology to benchmark analysis can improve environmental health planning and risk regulation when dealing with low-level exposures to hazardous agents.

The male genital tract plays an important role in protecting sperm by forming a distinct compartment separate from the body which limits exposure to potentially toxic substrates. Transporters along this tract can influence the distribution of xenobiotics into the male genital tract through efflux back into the blood or facilitating the accumulation of toxicants. The aim of this study was to quantitatively determine the constitutive mRNA expression of 30 xenobiotic transporters in caput and cauda regions of the epididymis, vas deferens, prostate, and seminal vesicles from adult Sprague-Dawley rats. The epididymis was found to express at least moderate levels of 18 transporters, vas deferens 15, seminal vesicles 23, and prostate 18. Constitutive expression of these xenobiotic transporters in the male genital tract may provide insight into the xenobiotics that can potentially be transported into these tissues and may provide the molecular mechanism for site specific toxicity of select agents.

Transporters within the SLC22, SLC44, and SLC47 families of solute carriers mediate transport of a structurally diverse array of organic electrolytes, that is, molecules that are generally charged (cationic, anionic, or zwitterionic) at physiological pH. Transporters in the SLC22 family--all of which are members of the major facilitator superfamily (MFS) of transporters--represent a mechanistically diverse set of processes, including the organic anion transporters (OATs and URAT1) that physiologically operate as organic anion (OA) exchangers, the organic cation transporters (OCTs) that operate as electrogenic uniporters of organic cations (OCs), and the so-called "novel" organic cation transporters (OCTNs) that support Na-cotransport of selected zwitterions. Whereas the OCTNs display a high degree of substrate selectivity, the physiological hallmark of the OATs and OCTs is their multiselectivity--consistent with a principal role in renal and hepatic clearance of a wide array of both endogenous and xenobiotic compounds. SLC47 consists of members of the multidrug and toxin extruder (MATE) family, which are carriers that are obligatory exchangers and that physiologically support electroneutral H⁺ exchange. The MATEs also display a characteristic multiselectivity and are frequently paired with OCTs to mediate transepithelial OC secretion, with the OCTs typically supporting basolateral OC entry and the MATEs supporting apical OC efflux. The SLC44 family contains the choline transporter-like (CTL) transporters. Largely restricted to choline and a limited set of structural congeners, the CTLs appear to support the Na-independent, electrogenic uniport of choline, thereby providing choline for membrane biogenesis. The solution of X-ray crystal structures of representative prokaryotic MFS and MATE transporters has led to the development of homology models of mammalian OAT, OCT, and MATE transporters that, in turn, have supplemented studies of the molecular basis of the complex interactions of ligands with these multiselective proteins.

The multidrug and toxin extruders 1- and 2-K (MATE1 and MATE2-K) are expressed in the luminal membrane of renal proximal tubule cells and provide the active step in the secretion of molecules that carry a net positive charge at physiologic pH, so-called organic cations. The present study tested whether structurally distinct MATE substrates can display different quantitative profiles of inhibition when interacting with structurally distinct ligands. The tested ligands were three structurally similar cationic ionic liquids (ILs, salts in the liquid state: N-butylpyridinium, NBuPy; 1-methyl-3-butylimidazolium, Bmim; and N-butyl-N-methylpyrrolidinium, BmPy). Uptake was measured using Chinese hamster ovary cells that stably expressed MATE1 or MATE2-K. By trans-stimulation, all three ILs were transported by both MATE transporters. The three ILs also inhibited uptake of three structurally distinct MATE substrates: 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP), triethylmethylammonium (TEMA), and N,N,N-trimethyl-2-[methyl(7-nitrobenzo[c][1,2,5]oxadiazol-4-yl)amino]ethanaminium (NBD-MTMA). MATE1 displayed a higher affinity for the pyridinium-based NBuPy (IC50 values, 2-4 µM) than for either the pyrrolidinium- (BmPy; 20-70 µM) or imidazolium-based ILs (Bmim; 15-60 µM). Inhibition of MPP, TEMA, and NBD-MTMA transport by NBuPy was competitive, with comparable Ki values against all substrates. Bmim also competitively blocked the three substrates but with Ki values that differed significantly (20 µM against MPP and 30 µM against NBD-MTMA versus 60 µM against TEMA). Together, these data indicate that renal secretion of ILs by the human kidney involves MATE transporters and suggest that the mechanism of transport inhibition is ligand-dependent, supporting the hypothesis that the binding of substrates to MATE transporters involves interaction with a binding surface with multiple binding sites.

Organic cation transporter 2 (OCT2) mediates the initial step in renal secretion of organic cations: uptake from the blood, across the basolateral membrane, and into the renal proximal tubule cells. Because of its potential as a target for unwanted drug-drug interactions (DDIs), considerable attention has been directed toward understanding the basis of OCT2 selectivity. These studies typically assess selectivity based on ligand inhibition profiles for OCT2-mediated transport of a probe substrate. However, little attention has been given to the potential influence of the substrate on the profile of ligand inhibition. Here we compared the IC50 values obtained for a set of structurally distinct inhibitors against OCT2-mediated transport of three structurally distinct substrates: 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP); metformin; and a novel fluorescent substrate, N,N,N-trimethyl-2-[methyl(7-nitrobenzo[c][l,2,5]oxadiazol-4-yl)amino]ethanaminium iodide (NBD-MTMA). The median IC50 value for inhibition of MPP transport was 9-fold higher than that for inhibition of metformin transport. Similarly, the median IC50 value for inhibition of MPP transport was 5-fold higher than that for NBD-MTMA transport. However, this was not a systematic difference in inhibitory efficacy; the ratio of IC50 values, MPP versus NBD-MTMA, ranged from 88-fold (ipratropium) to 0.3-fold (metformin). These data show that 1) the choice of OCT2 substrate significantly influences both quantitative and qualitative inhibitory interactions with cationic drugs; and 2) ligand interactions with OCT2 are not restricted to competition for a common ligand binding site, consistent with a binding surface characterized by multiple, possibly overlapping interaction sites. Development of predictive models of DDIs with OCT2 must take into account the substrate dependence of ligand interaction with this protein.

The blood-testis barrier (BTB) prevents the entry of many xenobiotic compounds into seminiferous tubules thereby protecting developing germ cells. Understanding drug transport across the BTB may improve drug delivery into the testis. Members of one class of drug, nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), do penetrate the BTB, presumably through interaction with physiologic nucleoside transporters. By investigating the mechanism of nucleoside transport, it may be possible to design other drugs to bypass the BTB in a similar manner. We present a novel ex vivo technique to study transport at the BTB that employs isolated, intact seminiferous tubules. Using this system, we found that over 80% of total uptake by seminiferous tubules of the model nucleoside uridine could be inhibited by 100 nM nitrobenzylmercaptopurine riboside (NBMPR, 6-S-[(4-nitrophenyl)methyl]-6-thioinosine), a concentration that selectively inhibits equilibrative nucleoside transporter 1 (ENT1) activity. In primary cultured rat Sertoli cells, 100 nM NBMPR inhibited all transepithelial transport and basolateral uptake of uridine. Immunohistochemical staining showed ENT1 to be located on the basolateral membrane of human and rat Sertoli cells, whereas ENT2 was located on the apical membrane of Sertoli cells. Transepithelial transport of uridine by rat Sertoli cells was partially inhibited by the NRTIs zidovudine, didanosine, and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, consistent with an interaction between these drugs and ENT transporters. These data indicate that ENT1 is the primary route for basolateral nucleoside uptake into Sertoli cells and a possible mechanism for nucleosides and nucleoside-based drugs to undergo transepithelial transport.

Endosperm is a filial structure resulting from a second fertilization event in angiosperms. As an absorptive storage organ, endosperm plays an essential role in support of embryo development and seedling germination. The accumulation of carbohydrate and protein storage products in cereal endosperm provides humanity with a major portion of its food, feed, and renewable resources. Little is known regarding the regulatory gene networks controlling endosperm proliferation and differentiation. As a first step toward understanding these networks, we profiled all mRNAs in the maize kernel and endosperm at eight successive stages during the first 12 d after pollination. Analysis of these gene sets identified temporal programs of gene expression, including hundreds of transcription-factor genes. We found a close correlation of the sequentially expressed gene sets with distinct cellular and metabolic programs in distinct compartments of the developing endosperm. The results constitute a preliminary atlas of spatiotemporal patterns of endosperm gene expression in support of future efforts for understanding the underlying mechanisms that control seed yield and quality.

In flowering plants, meiocytes develop from subepidermal cells in anthers and ovules. The mechanisms that integrate gene-regulatory processes with meiotic programs during reproductive development remain poorly characterized. Here, we show that Arabidopsis thaliana plants deficient in ACTIN-RELATED PROTEIN6 (ARP6), a subunit of the SWR1 ATP-dependent chromatin-remodeling complex, exhibit defects in prophase I of female meiosis. We found that this meiotic defect is likely due to dysregulated expression of meiotic genes, particularly those involved in meiotic recombination, including DMC1 (DISRUPTED MEIOTIC cDNA1). Analysis of DMC1 expression in arp6 mutant plants indicated that ARP6 inhibits expression of DMC1 in the megasporocyte and surrounding nonsporogeneous ovule cells before meiosis. After cells enter meiosis, however, ARP6 activates DMC1 expression specifically in the megasporocyte even as it continues to inhibit DMC1 expression in the nonsporogenous ovule cells. We further show that deposition of the histone variant H2A.Z, mediated by the SWR1 chromatin-remodeling complex at the DMC1 gene body, requires ARP6. Therefore, ARP6 regulates female meiosis by determining the spatial and temporal patterns of gene expression required for proper meiosis during ovule development.