Glioblastomas display variable phenotypes that include increased drug-resistance associated with enhanced migratory and anti-apoptotic characteristics. These shared characteristics contribute to failure of clinical treatment regimens. Identification of novel compounds that promote cell death and impair cellular motility is a logical strategy to develop more effective clinical protocols. We recently described the ability of the small molecule, KCC009, a tissue transglutaminase (TG2) inhibitor, to sensitize glioblastoma cells to chemotherapy. In the current study, we synthesized a series of related compounds that show variable ability to promote cell death and impair motility in glioblastomas, irrespective of their ability to inhibit TG2. Each compound has a 3-bromo-4,5-dihydroisoxazole component that presumably reacts with nucleophilic cysteine thiol residues in the active sites of proteins that have an affinity to the small molecule.
Our studies focused on the effects of the compound, ERW1227B. Treatment of glioblastoma cells with ERW1227B was associated with both down-regulation of the PI-3 kinase/Akt pathway, which enhanced cell death; as well as disruption of focal adhesive complexes and intracellular actin fibers, which impaired cellular mobility. Bioassays as well as time-lapse photography of glioblastoma cells treated with ERW1227B showed cell death and rapid loss of cellular motility. Mice studies with in vivo glioblastoma models demonstrated the ability of ERW1227B to sensitize tumor cells to cell death after treatment with either chemotherapy or radiation. The above findings identify ERW1227B as a potential novel therapeutic agent in the treatment of glioblastomas.
Focal adhesive complexes; Glioblastomas; ERW1227B; Cell death; Drug-resistance; Cellular motility
Meningiomas are common intracranial tumors that occur in extra-axial locations, most often over the cerebral convexities or along the skull-base. Although often histologically benign these tumors frequently present challenging clinical problems. Primary clinical management of patients with symptomatic tumors is surgical resection. Radiation treatment may arrest growth or delay recurrence of these tumors, however, meningioma cells are generally resistant to apoptosis after treatment with radiation. Tumor cells are known to alter their expression of proteins that interact in the ECM to provide signals important in tumor progression. One such protein, fibronectin, is expressed in elevated levels in the ECM in a number of tumors including meningiomas. We recently reported that levels of both extracellular fibronectin and tissue transglutaminase 2 (TG2) were increased in glioblastomas. We examined the expression of fibronectin and its association TG2 in meningiomas. Both fibronectin and TG2 were strongly expressed in all meningiomas studied. TG2 activity was markedly elevated in meningiomas, and TG2 was found to co-localize with fibronectin. Treatment of meningiomas with the small molecule TG2 inhibitor, KCC009, inhibited the binding of TG2 to fibronectin and blocked disposition of linear strands of fibronectin in the ECM. KCC009 treatment promoted apoptosis and enhanced radiation sensitivity both in cultured IOMM-Lee meningioma cells and in meningioma tumor explants. These findings support a potential protective role for TG2 in meningiomas.
Brain tumor; Cell death; tissue transglutaminase inhibitor; Radiation
The macrolide antibiotic erythromycin A and its semisynthetic analogues have been among the most useful antibacterial agents for the treatment of infectious diseases. Using a recently developed chemical genetic strategy for precursor-directed biosynthesis and colony bioassay of 6-deoxyerythromycin D analogues, we identified a new class of alkynyl- and alkenyl-substituted macrolides with activity comparable to that of the natural product. Further analysis revealed a marked and unexpected dependence of antibiotic activity on the size and degree of unsaturation of the precursor. Based on these leads, we also report the precursor-directed biosynthesis of 15-propargyl erythromycin A, a novel antibiotic that is not only as potent as erythromycin A with respect to its ability to inhibit bacterial growth and cell-free ribosomal protein biosynthesis, but also harbors an orthogonal functional group that is capable of facile chemical modification.
New tools are needed for managing celiac sprue, a lifelong immune disease of the small intestine. Ongoing drug trials are also prompting a search for noninvasive biomarkers of gluten-induced intestinal change. We have synthesized and characterized noninflammatory gluten peptide analogs in which key Gln residues are replaced by Asn or His. Like their proinflammatory counterparts, these biomarkers are resistant to gastrointestinal proteases, susceptible to glutenases, and permeable across enterocyte barriers. Unlike gluten peptides, however, they are not appreciably recognized by transglutaminase, HLA-DQ2, or disease-specific T cells. In vitro and animal studies show that the biomarkers can detect intestinal permeability changes as well as glutenase-catalyzed gastric detoxification of gluten. Accordingly, controlled clinical studies are warranted to evaluate the use of these peptides as probes for abnormal intestinal permeability in celiac patients and for glutenase efficacy in clinical trials and practice.
One of the most striking features of complex polyketides is the presence of numerous methyl- and hydroxyl-bearing stereogenic centers. In order to investigate the biochemical basis for the control of polyketide stereochemistry and to establish the timing and mechanism of the epimerization at methyl-bearing centers, a series of incubations was carried out using reconstituted components from a variety of modular polyketide synthases. In all cases the stereochemistry of the product was directly correlated with the intrinsic stereospecificity of the ketoreductase domain, independent of the particular chain elongation domains that were used, thereby establishing that methyl group epimerization, when it does occur, takes place after ketosynthase-catalyzed chain elongation. The finding that there were only minor differences in the rates of product formation observed for parallel incubations using an epimerizing ketoreductase domain and the non-epimerizing ketoreductase domain supports the proposal that the epimerization is catalyzed by the ketoreductase domain itself.
Techniques that can effectively separate protein–peptide complexes from free peptides have shown great value in MHC–peptide binding studies. However, most of the available techniques are limited to measuring the binding of a single peptide to MHC molecule. As antigen presentation in vivo involves both endogenous ligands and exogenous antigens, the deconvolution of multiple binding events necessitates the implementation of a more powerful technique. Here we show that capillary electrophoresis coupled to fluorescence detection (CE-FL) can resolve multiple MHC peptide binding events owing to its superior resolution and the ability to simultaneously monitor multiple emission channels. We utilized CE-FL to investigate competition and displacement of endogenous peptides by an immunogenic gluten peptide for binding to HLA-DQ2. Remarkably, this immunogenic peptide could displace CLIP peptides from the DQ2 binding site at neutral but not acidic pH. This unusual ability of the gluten peptide supports a direct loading mechanism of antigen presentation in extracellular environment, a property that could explain the antigenicity of dietary gluten in celiac disease.
protein-peptide interactions; multiple ligands; antigen presentation; electrophoresis; fluorescence
Since their discovery, polyketide synthases have been attractive targets of biosynthetic engineering to make “unnatural” natural products. Although combinatorial biosynthesis has made encouraging advances over the past two decades, the field remains in its infancy. In this enzyme-centric perspective, we discuss the scientific and technological challenges that could accelerate the adoption of combinatorial biosynthesis as a method of choice for the preparation of encoded libraries of bioactive small molecules. Borrowing a page from the protein structure prediction community, we propose a periodic challenge program to vet the most promising methods in the field, and to foster the collective development of useful tools and algorithms.
Bacterial aromatic polyketides that include many antibiotic and antitumor therapeutics are biosynthesized by the type II polyketide synthase (PKS), which consists of 5 – 10 stand-alone enzymatic domains. Hedamycin, an antitumor antibiotic polyketide, is uniquely primed with a hexadienyl group generated by a type I PKS followed by coupling to a downstream type II PKS to biosynthesize a 24-carbon polyketide, whose C9 position is reduced by hedamycin type II ketoreductase (hedKR). HedKR is homologous to the actinorhodin KR (actKR), for which we have conducted extensive structural studies previously. How hedKR can accommodate a longer polyketide substrate than the actKR, and the molecular basis of its regio- and stereospecificities, is not well understood. Here we present a detailed study of hedKR that sheds light on its specificity. Sequence alignment of KRs predicts that hedKR is less active than actKR, with significant differences in substrate/inhibitor recognition. In vitro and in vivo assays of hedKR confirmed this hypothesis. The hedKR crystal structure further provides the molecular basis for the observed differences between hedKR and actKR in the recognition of substrates and inhibitors. Instead of the 94-PGG-96 motif observed in actKR, hedKR has the 92-NGG-94 motif, leading to S-dominant stereospecificity, whose molecular basis can be explained by the crystal structure. Together with mutations, assay results, docking simulations, and the hedKR crystal structure, a model for the observed regio- and stereospecificities is presented herein that elucidates how different type II KRs recognize substrates with different chain lengths, yet precisely reduce only the C9-carbonyl group. The molecular features of hedKR important for regio- and stereospecificities can potentially be applied to biosynthesize new polyketides via protein engineering that rationally controls polyketide ketoreduction.
The pentadecaketide fredericamycin has the longest carbon chain backbone among polycyclic aromatic polyketide antibiotics whose biosynthetic genes have been sequenced. This backbone is synthesized by the bimodular fdm polyketide synthase (PKS). The initiation module is thought to synthesize a C6 intermediate that is then transferred onto the elongation PKS module, which extends it into a C30 poly-β-ketoacyl product. Here we demonstrate that the bimodular fdm PKS as well as its elongation module alone synthesize undecaketides and dodecaketides. Thus, unlike other homologues, the fdm ketosynthase – chain length factor (KS-CLF) heterodimer does not exclusively control the backbone length of its natural product. Using sequence- and structure-based approaches, 48 multiple mutants of the CLF were engineered and analyzed. Unexpectedly, the I134F mutant was unable to turn over, but could initiate and at least partially elongate the polyketide chain. This unprecedented mutant suggests that the KS-CLF heterodimer harbors an as yet uncharacterized chain termination mechanism. Together, our findings reveal fundamental mechanistic differences between the fdm PKS and its well-studied homologues.
Analysis of a genetic module repurposed between yeast and vertebrates reveals that a common antifungal medication is also a potent vascular disrupting agent.
Studies in diverse organisms have revealed a surprising depth to the evolutionary conservation of genetic modules. For example, a systematic analysis of such conserved modules has recently shown that genes in yeast that maintain cell walls have been repurposed in vertebrates to regulate vein and artery growth. We reasoned that by analyzing this particular module, we might identify small molecules targeting the yeast pathway that also act as angiogenesis inhibitors suitable for chemotherapy. This insight led to the finding that thiabendazole, an orally available antifungal drug in clinical use for 40 years, also potently inhibits angiogenesis in animal models and in human cells. Moreover, in vivo time-lapse imaging revealed that thiabendazole reversibly disassembles newly established blood vessels, marking it as vascular disrupting agent (VDA) and thus as a potential complementary therapeutic for use in combination with current anti-angiogenic therapies. Importantly, we also show that thiabendazole slows tumor growth and decreases vascular density in preclinical fibrosarcoma xenografts. Thus, an exploration of the evolutionary repurposing of gene networks has led directly to the identification of a potential new therapeutic application for an inexpensive drug that is already approved for clinical use in humans.
Yeast cells and vertebrate blood vessels would not seem to have much in common. However, we have discovered that during the course of evolution, a group of proteins whose function in yeast is to maintain cell walls has found an alternative use in vertebrates regulating angiogenesis. This remarkable repurposing of the proteins during evolution led us to hypothesize that, despite the different functions of the proteins in humans compared to yeast, drugs that modulated the yeast pathway might also modulate angiogenesis in humans and in animal models. One compound seemed a particularly promising candidate for this sort of approach: thiabendazole (TBZ), which has been in clinical use as a systemic antifungal and deworming treatment for 40 years. Gratifyingly, our study shows that TBZ is indeed able to act as a vascular disrupting agent and an angiogenesis inhibitor. Notably, TBZ also slowed tumor growth and decreased vascular density in human tumors grafted into mice. TBZ’s historical safety data and low cost make it an outstanding candidate for translation to clinical use as a complement to current anti-angiogenic strategies for the treatment of cancer. Our work demonstrates how model organisms from distant branches of the evolutionary tree can be exploited to arrive at a promising new drug.
The 1.51 Å resolution X-ray crystal structure of the trans-acyltransferase (AT) from the “AT-less” disorazole synthase (DSZS), and its acetate complex at 1.35 Å resolution, are reported. Separately, comprehensive alanine scanning mutagenesis of one of its acyl carrier protein substrates (ACP1 from DSZS) led to the identification of a conserved Asp45 residue on the ACP, which contributes to the substrate specificity of this unusual enzyme. Together, these experimental findings were used to derive a model for the selective association of the DSZS AT and its ACP substrate. Towards the goal of structurally characterizing the AT-ACP interface, a strategy was developed for covalently cross-linking active site Ser→Cys mutant of the DSZS AT to its ACP substrate, and for purifying the resulting AT-ACP complex to homogeneity. The S86C DSZS AT mutant was found to be functional, albeit with a 200-fold lower transacylation efficiency than its wild-type counterpart. Our findings provide new insights as well as new opportunities for high-resolution analysis of an important protein-protein interface in polyketide synthases.
Celiac sprue is an inflammatory disease of the small intestine caused by dietary gluten and treated by adherence to a lifelong gluten-free diet. The recent identification of immunodominant gluten peptides, the discovery of their cogent properties, and the elucidation of the mechanisms by which they engender immunopathology in genetically-susceptible individuals have advanced our understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of this complex disease, enabling the rational design of new therapeutic strategies. The most clinically advanced of these is oral enzyme therapy, in which enzymes capable of proteolyzing gluten (i.e. glutenases) are delivered to the alimentary tract of a celiac sprue patient to detoxify ingested gluten in situ. In this chapter, we discuss the key challenges for discovery and preclinical development of oral enzyme therapies for celiac sprue. Methods for lead identification, assay development, gram-scale production and formulation, and lead optimization for next-generation proteases are described and critically assessed.
Coeliac disease is a widespread, lifelong disorder for which dietary control represents the only accepted form of therapy. There is an unmet need for non-dietary therapies to treat this condition. Most ongoing and emerging drug discovery programmes are based on the understanding that coeliac disease is caused by an inappropriate T-cell-mediated immune response to dietary gluten proteins. Recent genome-wide association studies lend further support to this pathogenic model. The central role of human leukocyte antigen genes has been validated, and a number of new risk loci have been identified, most of which are related to the biology of T cells and antigen-presenting cells. Here we review the status of potential non-dietary therapies under consideration for coeliac disease. We conclude that future development of novel therapies will be aided by the identification of new, preferably non-invasive, surrogate markers for coeliac disease activity.
Coeliac disease; gluten; T cell; HLA; transglutaminase; drug; therapy
The polyketide antibiotic frenolicin B harbors a biosynthetically intriguing benzoisochromanequinone core, and has been shown to exhibit promising antiparasitic activity against Eimeria tenella. To facilitate further exploration of its chemistry and biology, we constructed a biosynthetic route to frenolicin B in the heterologous host Streptomyces coelicolor CH999, despite the absence of key enzymes in the identified frenolicin gene cluster. Together with our understanding of the underlying polyketide biosynthetic pathway, this heterologous production system was exploited to produce analogs modified at the C15 position. Both the natural product and these analogs inhibited the growth of Toxoplasma gondii in a manner that reveals sensitivity to the length of the C15 substituent. The ability to construct a functional biosynthetic pathway, despite a lack of genetic information, illustrates the feasibility of a modular approach to engineering medicinally relevant polyketide products.
Inhibitors of human transglutaminase 2 (TG2) are anticipated to be useful in the therapy of a variety of diseases including celiac sprue as well as certain CNS disorders and cancers. A class of 3-acylidene-2-oxoindoles was identified as potent reversible inhibitors of human TG2. Structure-activity relationship analysis of a lead compound led to the generation of several potent, competitive inhibitors. Analogues with significant non-competitive character were also identified, suggesting that the compounds bind at one or more allosteric regulatory sites on this multidomain enzyme. The most active compounds had Ki values below 1.0 µM in two different kinetic assays for human TG2, and may therefore be suitable for investigations into the role of TG2 in physiology and disease in animals.
transglutaminase 2; oxoindole; celiac sprue; structure-activity relationships; allostery
Macrolide antibacterial agents inhibit parasite proliferation by targeting the apicoplast ribosome. Motivated by the long-term goal of identifying antiparasitic macrolides that lack antibacterial activity, we have systematically analyzed the structure-activity relationships among erythromycin analogues and have also investigated the mechanism of action of selected compounds. Two lead compounds, N-benzyl-azithromycin (11) and N-phenylpropyl-azithromycin (30), were identified with significantly higher antiparasitic activity and lower antibacterial activity than erythromycin or azithromycin. Molecular modeling based on the co-crystal structure of azithromycin bound to the bacterial ribosome suggested that a substituent at the N-9 position of desmethyl-azithromycin could improve selectivity due to species-specific interactions with the ribosomal L22 protein. Like other macrolides, these lead compounds display a strong “delayed death phenotype”; however, their early effects on T. gondii replication are more pronounced.
Transglutaminase 2 (TG2) is an allosterically regulated enzyme with transamidating, deamidating and cell signaling activities. It is thought to catalyze sequence-specific deamidation of dietary gluten peptides in the small intestines of celiac disease patients. Because this modification has profound consequences for disease pathogenesis, there is considerable interest in the design of small molecule TG2 inhibitors. Although many classes of TG2 inhibitors have been reported, thus far an animal model for screening them to identify promising celiac drug candidates has remained elusive. Using intraperitoneal administration of the toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) ligand, polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (poly(I∶C)), we induced rapid TG2 activation in the mouse small intestine. Dose dependence was observed in the activation of TG2 as well as the associated villous atrophy, gross clinical response, and rise in serum concentration of the IL-15/IL-15R complex. TG2 activity was most pronounced in the upper small intestine. No evidence of TG2 activation was observed in the lung mucosa, nor were TLR7/8 ligands able to elicit an analogous response. Introduction of ERW1041E, a small molecule TG2 inhibitor, in this mouse model resulted in TG2 inhibition in the small intestine. TG2 inhibition had no effect on villous atrophy, suggesting that activation of this enzyme is a consequence, rather than a cause, of poly(I∶C) induced enteropathy. Consistent with this finding, administration of poly(I∶C) to TG2 knockout mice also induced villous atrophy. Our findings pave the way for pharmacological evaluation of small molecule TG2 inhibitors as drug candidates for celiac disease.
We report the synthesis and preliminary characterization of “clickable” inhibitors of human transglutaminase 2 (TG2). These inhibitors possess the 3-halo-4,5-dihydroisoxazole warhead along with bio-orthogonal groups such as azide or alkyne moieties that enable subsequent covalent modification with fluorophores. Their mechanism for inhibition of TG2 is based on halide displacement, resulting in the formation of a stable imino thioether. Inhibition assays against recombinant human TG2 revealed that some of the clickable inhibitors prepared in this study have comparable specificity as benchmark dihydroisoxazole inhibitors reported earlier. At low micromolar concentrations they completely inhibited transiently activated TG2 in a WI-38 fibroblast scratch assay, and could subsequently be used to visualize the active enzyme in situ. The potential use of these inhibitors to probe the role of TG2 in celiac sprue as well as other diseases is discussed.
The dehydratase (DH) domain of module 4 of the 6-deoxyerythronolide B synthase (DEBS) has been shown to catalyze an exclusive syn elimination/syn addition of water. Incubation of recombinant DH4 with chemoenzymatically prepared anti-(2R,3R)-2-methyl-3-hydroxypentanoyl-ACP (2a-ACP) gave the dehydration product 3-ACP. Similarly, incubation of DH4 with synthetic 3-ACP resulted in the reverse enzyme-catalyzed hydration reaction, giving a ~3:1 equilbrium mixture of 2a-ACP and 3-ACP. Incubation of a mixture of propionyl-SNAC (4), methylmalonyl-CoA, and NADPH with the DEBS β-ketoacyl synthase – acyl transferase [KS6][AT6] didomain, DEBS ACP6, and the ketoreductase domain from tylactone synthase module 1 (TYLS KR1) generated in situ anti-2a-ACP that underwent DH4-catalyzed syn dehydration to give 3-ACP. DH4 did not dehydrate either syn-(2S,3R)-2b-ACP, syn-(2R,3S)-2c-ACP, or anti-(2S,3S)-2d-ACP generated in situ by DEBS KR1, DEBS KR6, or the rifamycin synthase KR7 (RIFS KR7), respectively. Similarly, incubation of a mixture of (2S,3R)-2-methyl-3-hydroxypentanoyl-N-acetylcysteamine thioester (2b-SNAC), methylmalonyl-CoA, and NADPH with DEBS [KS6][AT6], DEBS ACP6, and TYLS KR1 gave anti-(2R,3R)-6-ACP that underwent syn dehydration catalyzed by DEBS DH4 to give (4R,5R)-(E)-2,4-dimethyl-5-hydroxy-hept-2-enoyl-ACP (7-ACP). The structure and stereochemistry of 7 were established by GC-MS and LC-MS comparison of the derived methyl ester 7-Me to a synthetic sample of 7-Me.
A-74528 is a recently discovered natural product of Streptomyces sp. SANK 61196 that inhibits 2′,5′-oligoadenylate phosphodiesterase (2′-PDE), a key regulatory enzyme of the interferon pathway. Inhibition of 2′-PDE by A-74528 reduces viral replication, and therefore shows promise as a new type of antiviral drug. The complete A-74528 gene cluster, comprising of 29 open reading frames, was cloned and sequenced, and shown to possess a type II polyketide synthase (PKS) at its core. Its identity was confirmed by analysis of a mutant generated by targeted disruption of a PKS gene, and by functional expression in a heterologous Streptomyces host. Remarkably, it showed exceptional end-to-end sequence identity to the gene cluster responsible for biosynthesis of fredericamycin A, a structurally unrelated antitumor antibiotic with a distinct mode of action. Whereas the fredericamycin producing strain, Streptomyces griseus, produced undetectable quantities of A-74528, the A-74528 gene cluster was capable of producing both antibiotics. The biosynthetic roles of three genes, including one that represents the only qualitative difference between the two gene clusters, were investigated by targeted gene disruption. The implications for the evolution of antibiotics with different biological activities from the same gene cluster are discussed.
The ability to incorporate atypical primer units through the use of dedicated initiation polyketide synthase (PKS) modules offers opportunities to expand molecular diversity of polyketide natural products. Here we identify the initiation PKS module responsible for hexadienyl priming of the antibiotic fredericamycin, and investigate its biochemical properties. We also exploit this PKS module for the design and in vivo biosynthesis of unusually primed analogs of a representative polyketide product, thereby emphasizing its utility to the metabolic engineer.
Erythromycin and related macrolide antibiotics are widely used polyketide natural products. We have evolved an engineered biosynthetic pathway in Escherichia coli that yields erythromycin analogs from simple synthetic precursors. Multiple rounds of mutagenesis and screening led to the identification of new mutant strains with improved efficiency for precursor directed biosynthesis. Genetic and biochemical analysis suggested that the phenotypically relevant alterations in these mutant strains were localized exclusively to the host-vector system, and not to the polyketide synthase. We also demonstrate the utility of this improved system through engineered biosynthesis of a novel alkynyl erythromycin derivative with comparable antibacterial activity to its natural counterpart. In addition to reinforcing the power of directed evolution for engineering macrolide biosynthesis, our studies have identified a new lead substance for investigating structure-function relationships in the bacterial ribosome.
erythromycin; 6-deoxyerythronolide B synthase; precursor directed biosynthesis; polyketide; directed evolution
Acyltransferase (AT) domains of multimodular polyketide synthases are the primary gatekeepers for stepwise incorporation of building blocks into a growing polyketide chain. Each AT domain has two substrates, an α-carboxylated CoA thioester (e.g. malonyl-CoA or methylmalonyl-CoA) and an acyl carrier protein (ACP). Whereas the acyl-CoA specificity of AT domains has been extensively investigated, little is known about their ACP specificity. Guided by recent high-resolution structural insights, we have systematically probed the protein-protein interactions between AT domains, ACP domains and the linkers that flank AT domains. Representative AT domains of the 6-deoxyerythronolide B synthase (DEBS) have greater than 10-fold specificity for their cognate ACP substrates as compared to other ACP domains from the same synthase. Both the flanking (N- and C-terminal) linkers of an AT domain contributed to the efficiency and specificity of transacylation. As a frame of reference, the activity and specificity of a stand-alone AT domain from the “AT-less” disorazole synthase (DSZS) were also quantified. The activity (kcat/KM) of this AT was >250-fold higher than the corresponding values for DEBS AT domains. Although the AT from DSZS discriminated modestly against ACP domains from DEBS, it exhibited >40-fold higher activity in trans in the presence of these heterologous substrates than their natural AT domains. Our results highlight the opportunity for regioselective modification of a polyketide backbone by in trans complementation of inactivated AT domains. They also reinforce the need for more careful consideration of protein-protein interactions in the engineering of these assembly line enzymes.
Hedamycin is an antitumor polyketide antibiotic with unusual biosynthetic features. Earlier sequence analysis of the hedamycin biosynthetic gene cluster implied a role for type I as well as type II polyketide synthases (PKSs). We demonstrate that the hedamycin minimal PKS can synthesize a dodecaketide backbone. The ketosynthase (KS) subunit of this PKS has specificity for both type I and type II acyl carrier proteins (ACPs) with which it collaborates during chain initiation and chain elongation, respectively. The KS receives a C6 primer unit from the terminal ACP domain of HedU (a type I PKS protein) directly, and subsequently interacts with the ACP domain of HedE (a type II PKS protein) during the process of chain elongation. HedE is a bifunctional protein with both ACP and aromatase activity. Its aromatase domain can modulate the chain length specificity of the minimal PKS. Chain length can also be influenced by HedA, the C-9 ketoreductase. Whereas co-expression of the hedamycin minimal PKS and a chain initiation module from the R1128 PKS yields an isobutyryl primed decaketide, the orthologous PKS subunits from the hedamycin gene cluster itself are unable to prime the minimal PKS with a non-acetyl starter unit. Our findings provide new insights into the mechanism of chain initiation and elongation by type II PKSs.