Nonribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS) assembly lines are major avenues for the biosynthesis of a vast array of peptidyl natural products. Several hundred bacterial NRPS gene clusters contain a small (∼70-residue) protein belonging to the MbtH family for which no function has been defined. Here we show that two strictly conserved Trp residues in MbtH-like proteins contribute to stimulation of amino acid adenylation in some NRPS modules. We also demonstrate that adenylation can be stimulated not only by cognate MbtH-like proteins but also by homologues from disparate natural product pathways.
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