Saframycin Mx1 is a DNA-binding antibiotic and antitumour agent produced by It is a heterocyclic quinone, thought to be synthesized via the linear pepide intermediate AlaGlyTyrTyr. Analysis of 14.1 kb DNA sequence involved in saframycin production revealed genes for two large multifunctional peptide synthetases of 1770 and 2605 amino acids, respectively, and a putative -methyltransferase of 220 amino acids. The three ORFs read in the same direction and are separated by short non-translated gaps of 44 and 49 bp. The peptide synthetases contain two amino-acid-activating domains each. The first domain lacks two of the most conserved ‘core’ sequences, and the last domain is followed by a putative reductase functionality, not previously seen in peptide synthetases. Complementation tests showed that antibiotic-nonproducing mutant strains lacking one of the peptide synthetases secrete a substrate, presumably a modified amino acid precursor, that can be used by -methyltransferase-deficient mutant strains to synthesize saframycin Mx1.


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