Biochemical characterization of MelJ and MelK: Myxobacterial enzymes that transform an amide into a methyl ester

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Melithiazol and myxothiazol are two myxobacterial metabolites that are highly efficient electron transport inhibitors of the respiratory chain. MelJ and MelK encoded in the melithiazol biosynthetic gene cluster were recently shown to be involved in the formation of the methyl ester from a hypothetical amide intermediate. In vivo studies suggest that the structurally highly similar amide myxothiazol A can be used as a substrate mimic of the hypothetical melithiazol amide to characterize the hydrolase MelJ. Both enzymes were produced in Escherichia coli as intein chitin fusion proteins and were purified using affinity chromatography. MelJ was found to catalyse the conversion of the amide myxothiazol to free myxothiazol acid. The formerly unknown myxothiazol acid was purified and used as a substrate for the methyl transferase MelK which methylates the compound using S-adenosyl-methionine as cosubstrate. Sequence analyses suggest that MelJ and MelK are members of the amidase signature family and of a new subclass of methyltransferases, respectively. Kinetic analyses point at a very high substrate specificity for both enzymes. Furthermore, the in vitro reconstitution of a unique mechanism of methyl ester formation found in myxobacteria is reported.

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