Thiazole/oxazole-modified microcins: Complex natural products from ribosomal templates

Joel O. Melby, Nathan J. Nard, Douglas A. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


With billions of years of evolution under its belt, Nature has been expanding and optimizing its biosynthetic capabilities. Chemically complex secondary metabolites continue to challenge and inspire today's most talented synthetic chemists. A brief glance at these natural products, especially the substantial structural variation within a class of compounds, clearly demonstrates that Nature has long played the role of medicinal chemist. The recent explosion in genome sequencing has expanded our appreciation of natural product space and the vastness of uncharted territory that remains. One small corner of natural product chemical space is occupied by the recently dubbed thiazole/oxazole-modified microcins (TOMMs), which are ribosomally produced peptides with posttranslationally installed heterocycles derived from cysteine, serine and threonine residues. As with other classes of natural products, the genetic capacity to synthesize TOMMs has been widely disseminated among bacteria. Over the evolutionary timescale, Nature has tested countless random mutations and selected for gain of function in TOMM biosynthetic gene clusters, yielding several privileged molecular scaffolds. Today, this burgeoning class of natural products encompasses a structurally and functionally diverse set of molecules (i.e. microcin B17, cyanobactins, and thiopeptides). TOMMs presumably provide their producers with an ecological advantage. This advantage can include chemical weapons wielded in the battle for nutrients, disease-promoting virulence factors, or compounds presumably beneficial for symbiosis. Despite this plethora of functions, many TOMMs await experimental interrogation. This review will focus on the biosynthesis and natural combinatorial diversity of the TOMM family.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-378
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Opinion in Chemical Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry


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