Discovery of the pseudomonas polyyne protegencin by a phylogeny-guided study of polyyne biosynthetic gene cluster diversity

Alex J. Mullins, Gordon Webster, Hak Joong Kim, Jinlian Zhao, Yoana D. Petrova, Christina E. Ramming, Matthew Jenner, James A.H. Murray, Thomas R. Connor, Christian Hertweck, Gregory L. Challis, Eshwar Mahenthiralingam

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Natural products that possess alkyne or polyyne moieties have been isolated from a variety of biological sources and possess a broad a range of bioactiv-ities. In bacteria, the basic biosynthesis of polyynes is known, but their biosynthetic gene cluster (BGC) distribution and evolutionary relationship to alkyne biosynthesis have not been addressed. Through comprehensive genomic and phylogenetic analy-ses, the distribution of alkyne biosynthesis gene cassettes throughout bacteria was explored, revealing evidence of multiple horizontal gene transfer events. After inves-tigation of the evolutionary connection between alkyne and polyyne biosynthesis, a monophyletic clade was identified that possessed a conserved seven-gene cassette for polyyne biosynthesis that built upon the conserved three-gene cassette for alkyne biosynthesis. Further diversity mapping of the conserved polyyne gene cassette revealed a phylogenetic subclade for an uncharacterized polyyne BGC present in several Pseudomonas species, designated pgn. Pathway mutagenesis and high-re-solution analytical chemistry showed the Pseudomonas protegens pgn BGC directed the biosynthesis of a novel polyyne, protegencin. Exploration of the biosynthetic logic behind polyyne production, through BGC mutagenesis and analytical chemistry, highlighted the essentiality of a triad of desaturase proteins and a thioesterase in both the P. protegens pgn and Trinickia caryophylli (formerly Burkholderia caryophylli) caryoynencin pathways. We have unified and expanded knowledge of polyyne diversity and uniquely demonstrated that alkyne and polyyne biosynthetic gene clusters are evolutionarily related and widely distributed within bacteria. The systematic mapping of conserved biosynthetic genes across the available bacterial genomic diversity proved to be a fruitful method for discovering new natural products and better understanding polyyne biosynthesis. 

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00715-21
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Biosynthetic gene clusters
  • Natural products
  • Phylogenetics
  • Polyynes
  • Pseudomonas

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