Combinatorial biosynthesis of antitumor indolocarbazole compounds

César Sánchez, Lili Zhu, Alfredo F. Braña, Aaroa P. Salas, Jürgen Rohr, Carmen Méndez, José A. Salas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

219 Scopus citations


Rebeccamycin and staurosporine are natural products with antitumor properties, which belong to the family of indolocarbazole alkaloids. An intense effort currently exists for the generation of indolocarbazole derivatives for the treatment of several diseases, including cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. Here, we report a biological process based on combinatorial biosynthesis for the production of indolocarbazole compounds (or their precursors) in engineered microorganisms as a complementary approach to chemical synthesis. We have dissected and reconstituted the entire biosynthetic pathway for rebeccamycin in a convenient actinomycete host, Streptomyces albus. This task was achieved by coexpressing different combinations of genes isolated from the rebeccamycin-producing microorganism. Also, a gene (staC) was identified in staurosporine-producing microbes and was shown to have a key role to differentiate the biosynthetic pathways for the two indolocarbazoles. Last, incorporation of the pyrH and thal genes, encoding halogenases from different microorganisms, resulted in production of derivatives with chlorine atoms at novel positions. We produced >30 different compounds by using the recombinant strains generated in this work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-466
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 11 2005


  • Cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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