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Natural product discovery has traditionally relied on the isolation of small molecules from producing species, but genome-sequencing technology and advances in molecular biology techniques have expanded efforts to a wider array of organisms. Protists represent an underexplored kingdom for specialized metabolite searches despite bioinformatic analysis that suggests they harbor distinct biologically active small molecules. Specifically, pathogenic apicomplexan parasites, responsible for billions of global infections, have been found to possess multiple biosynthetic gene clusters, which hints at their capacity to produce polyketide metabolites. Biochemical studies have revealed unique features of apicomplexan polyketide synthases, but to date, the identity and function of the polyketides synthesized by these megaenzymes remains unknown. Herein, we discuss the potential for specialized metabolite production in protists and the possible evolution of polyketide biosynthetic gene clusters in apicomplexan parasites. We then focus on a polyketide synthase from the apicomplexan Toxoplasma gondii to discuss the unique domain architecture and properties of these proteins when compared to previously characterized systems, and further speculate on the possible functions for polyketides in these pathogenic parasites. © 2023 Wiley-VCH GmbH.


Hannah K D'Ambrosio, Aaron M Keeler, Emily R Derbyshire. Examination of Secondary Metabolite Biosynthesis in Apicomplexa. Chembiochem : a European journal of chemical biology. 2023 Sep 01;24(17):e202300263

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PMID: 37171468

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