Rapamycin, FK506, and FK520 are potent immunosuppressant natural product macrocycles generated by hybrid polyketide synthase (PKS)/nonribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS) systems in streptomycetes. An important functional element within these molecules is an L-pipecolate moiety that is incorporated into the completed polyketide chain by the action of RapP/FkbP, a four-domain NRPS that also putatively serves to cyclize the chain after amino acid insertion. Here we report the expression and purification of recombinant FkbP from the FK520 biosynthetic pathway. Using a combination of radioassays and Fourier transform mass spectrometry, we demonstrate that once FkbP has been phosphopantetheinylated in vitro, its peptidyl carrier protein domain can be successfully loaded with L-pipecolic acid and, to a lesser extent, L-proline. The first condensation domain of FkbP is shown to be active through the successful acetylation of aminoacyl-S-FkbP using the appropriately loaded terminal acyl carrier protein from the PKS array, FkbA, as the chain donor. Site-directed mutagenesis confirmed that the N-terminal condensation domain catalyzes the transfer reaction. Acetylation of prolyl-5-FkbP was more rapid and occurred to a greater extent than that of pipecolyl-S-FkbP, a trend which was also observed with alternative acyl chain donors. These observations suggest that the adenylation domain of FkbP serves as the primary selectivity filter for pipecolate incorporation.
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