Fosmidomycin biosynthesis diverges from related phosphonate natural products

Elizabeth I. Parkinson, Annette Erb, Andrew C. Eliot, Kou San Ju, William W. Metcalf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fosmidomycin and related molecules comprise a family of phosphonate natural products with potent antibacterial, antimalarial and herbicidal activities. To understand the biosynthesis of these compounds, we characterized the fosmidomycin producer, Streptomyces lavendulae, using biochemical and genetic approaches. We were unable to elicit production of fosmidomycin, instead observing the unsaturated derivative dehydrofosmidomycin, which we showed potently inhibits 1-deoxy-d-xylulose-5-phosphate reductoisomerase and has bioactivity against a number of bacteria. The genes required for dehydrofosmidomycin biosynthesis were established by heterologous expression experiments. Bioinformatics analyses, characterization of intermediates and in vitro biochemistry show that the biosynthetic pathway involves conversion of a two-carbon phosphonate precursor into the unsaturated three-carbon product via a highly unusual rearrangement reaction, catalyzed by the 2-oxoglutarate dependent dioxygenase DfmD. The required genes and biosynthetic pathway for dehydrofosmidomycin differ substantially from that of the related natural product FR-900098, suggesting that the ability to produce these bioactive molecules arose via convergent evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1049-1056
Number of pages8
JournalNature chemical biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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