Cryptosporidium parvum: the first protist known to encode a putative polyketide synthase. Academic Article uri icon


  • We are reporting a putative multifunctional Type I polyketide synthase (PKS) gene from the apicomplexan Cryptosporidium parvum (CpPKS1). The 40 kb intronless open reading frame (ORF) predicts a single polypeptide of 13,414 amino acids with a molecular mass of 1516.5 kDa. Sequence analysis identified at least 29 enzymatic domains within this protein. These domains are organized into an N-terminal loading unit, seven polyketide chain elongation modules, and a carboxy terminator unit. The loading domain consists of an acyl-CoA ligase (AL) and an acyl carrier protein (ACP). All seven elongation modules contain between two and five of the six domains required for the elongation of two-carbon (C2) acyl units, i.e. ketoacyl synthase, acyl transferase, dehydrase, enoyl reductase, ketoreductase and/or ACP. The carboxy terminator is homologous to various reductases, suggesting that the final elongated product is not hydrolytically released by thioesterases as observed in most Type I PKS and all fatty acid synthetase (FAS) systems, but by a reducing reaction, which has been demonstrated in some non-ribosomal peptide synthase systems. The protein sequence and domain organization of CpPKS1 protein resembles a previously reported C. parvum fatty acid synthase (CpFAS1), which is encoded by a 25 kb ORF. Maximum likelihood phylogenetic analysis of acyl transferases within PKS/FAS from C. parvum and other organisms clearly differentiates acetate-extending clades from those incorporating propionate. All acyl transferase domains from CpPKS1, and a previously reported CpFAS1, clustered within the acetate-extending group, suggesting the likelihood that only non-methylated C2 units are incorporated by C. parvum polyketide and fatty acid synthases. The expression of CpPKS1 was confirmed by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and immunofluorescence microscopy. Many polyketides are medically significant antibiotics, anticancer agents, toxins, or signaling molecules. Therefore, it is interesting to speculate what role CpPKS1 might play in this apicomplexan and the disease caused by this opportunistic infection of AIDS patients.

published proceedings

  • Gene

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhu, G., LaGier, M. J., Stejskal, F., Millership, J. J., Cai, X., & Keithly, J. S.

citation count

  • 87

complete list of authors

  • Zhu, Guan||LaGier, Michael J||Stejskal, Frantisek||Millership, Jason J||Cai, Xiaomin||Keithly, Janet S

publication date

  • September 2002

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