Heterologous expression of thiostrepton A and biosynthetic engineering of thiostrepton analogs
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Thiopeptides are posttranslationally-processed macrocyclic peptide metabolites, characterized by extensive backbone and side chain modifications that include a six-membered nitrogenous ring, thioazol(in)e/oxazol(in)e rings, and dehydrated amino acid residues. Thiostrepton A, produced by Streptomyces laurentii ATCC 31255, is one of the more structurally complex thiopeptides, containing a second macrocycle bearing a quinaldic acid. Thiostrepton A and other thiopeptides are of great interest due to their potent activities against emerging antibiotic-resistant Gram-positive pathogens, in addition to their antimalarial and anticancer properties. The ribosomal origins for thiopeptides have been established, however, few details are known concerning the posttranslational modification steps. Alteration to the primary amino acid sequence of the precursor peptide provides an avenue to probe the substrate specificity of the thiostrepton A posttranslational machinery. The information gathered from current studies can also be used to refine thiostrepton’s structure-activity relationship, providing insight into the key features of its scaffold that impart specificity toward each biological target. A fosmid-dependent biosynthetic engineering platform for thiostrepton A was developed and a series of thiostrepton analogs were successfully produced adapting this method. The seventh residue of thiostrepton A is predicted to be critical for the metabolite’s antibacterial activity. Our results were consistent this hypothesis and demonstrated that substitution of Thr7 in the thiostrepton A precursor peptide disrupts both biological activity and successful biosynthesis of the analogs. The thiostrepton biosynthetic machinery’s tolerances toward structural variation at the second and fourth positions of the TsrA core peptide were probed by the saturation mutagenesis of Ala2 and Ala4, respectively. Eight thiostrepton Ala2 variants were isolated with two analogs truncated at the N-terminus by one amino acid, bearing a shortened quinaldic acid-containing macrocycle. Our results suggested that the identity of the core peptide second residue influences the biosynthesis of a thiostrepton analog, however, not essential for the antibacterial and proteasome inhibitory activities of the full-length variants. Additionally, the quinaldic acid loop size affects thiostrepton’s antibacterial potency, but is not critical for the proteasome inhibitory activity. Sixteen thiostrepton analogs were isolated from Ala4 mutagenesis studies. We demonstrated that the identity of the amino acid residue at the fourth position in the thiostrepton scaffold is not critical to inhibit either the ribosome or the proteasome in vitro.