Mithramycin analogues generated by combinatorial biosynthesis show improved bioactivity

Irfan Baig, María Perez, Alfredo F. Braña, Rohini Gomathinayagam, Chendil Damodaran, Jose A. Salas, Carmen Méndez, Jürgen Rohr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Plasmid pLNBIV was used to overexpress the biosynthetic pathway of nucleoside-diphosphate (NDP)-activated L-digitoxose in the mithramycin producer Streptomyces argillaceus. This led to a "flooding" of the biosynthetic pathway of the antitumor drug mithramycin (MTM) with NDP-activated deoxysugars, which do not normally occur in the pathway, and consequently to the production of the four new mithramycin derivatives 1-4 with altered saccharide patterns. Their structures reflect that NDP sugars produced by pLNBIV, namely, L-digitoxose and its biosynthetic intermediates, influenced the glycosyl transfer to positions B, D, and E, while positions A and C remained unaffected. All four new structures have unique, previously not found sugar decoration patterns, which arise from either overcoming the substrate specificity or inhibition of certain glycosyltransferases (GTs) of the MTM pathway with the foreign NDP sugars expressed by pLNBIV. An apoptosis TUNEL (=terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling) assay revealed that compounds 1 (demycarosyl-3D-β-D-digitoxosyl-MTM) and 3 (deoliosyl-3C-β-D-mycarosyl-MTM) show improved activity (64.8 ± 2% and 50.3 ± 2.5% induction of apoptosis, respectively) against the estrogen receptor (ER)-positive human breast cancer cell line MCF-7 compared with the parent drug MTM (37.8 ± 2.5% induction of apoptosis). In addition, compounds 1 and 4 (3A-deolivosyl-MTM) show significant effects on the ER-negative human breast cancer cell line MDA-231 (63.6 ± 2% and 12.6 ± 2.5% induction of apoptosis, respectively), which is not inhibited by the parent drug MTM itself (2.6 ± 1.5% induction of apoptosis), but for which chemotherapeutic agents are urgently needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-207
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Natural Products
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Organic Chemistry


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