The structural and catalytic similarities between modular non-ribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS) and polyketide synthase (PKS) inspired us to search for hybrid NRPS-PKS systems. By examining the biochemical and genetic data known to date for the biosynthesis of hybrid peptide-polyketide natural products, we show (1) that the same catalytic sites are conserved between the hybrid NRPS-PKS and normal NRPS or PKS systems, although the ketoacyl synthase domain in NRPS/PKS hybrids is unique, and (2) that specific interpolypeptide linkers exist at both the C- and N-termini of the NRPS and PKS proteins, which presumably play a critical role in facilitating the transfer of the growing peptide or polyketide intermediate between NRPS and PKS modules in hybrid NRPS-PKS systems. These findings provide new insights for intermodular communications in hybrid NRPS-PKS systems and should now be taken into consideration in engineering hybrid peptide-polyketide biosynthetic pathways for making novel "unnatural" natural products. © 2001 Academic Press.
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