The pikromycin polyketide synthase (PKS) of S. venezuelae, which consists of one loading module and six extension modules, is responsible for the formation of the hexaketide narbonolide, a key intermediate in the biosynthesis of the antibiotic pikromycin. S. venezuelae strains in which PikAI, which houses the loading domain and first two modules of the PKS, is either absent or catalytically inactive, produce no pikromycin product. When these strains are grown in the presence of a synthetically prepared triketide product, activated as the N-acetylcysteamine thioester, pikromycin yields are restored to as much as 11% of that seen in the wild-type strain. Feeding analogues of the triketide intermediate provides pikromycin analogues bearing different alkyl substituents at C13 and C14. One of these analogues, Δ15,16-dehydropikromycin, exhibits improved antimicrobial activity relative to pikromycin.
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