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Lasso Peptides: An Intriguing Class of Bacterial Natural Products

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journal contribution
posted on 21.07.2015 by Julian D. Hegemann, Marcel Zimmermann, Xiulan Xie, Mohamed A. Marahiel
ConspectusNatural products of peptidic origin often represent a rich source of medically relevant compounds. The synthesis of such polypeptides in nature is either initiated by deciphering the genetic code on the ribosome during the translation process or driven by ribosome-independent processes. In the latter case, highly modified bioactive peptides are assembled by multimodular enzymes designated as nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPS) that act as a protein-template to generate chemically diverse peptides. On the other hand, the ribosome-dependent strategy, although relying strictly on the 20–22 proteinogenic amino acids, generates structural diversity by extensive post-translational-modification. This strategy seems to be highly distributed in all kingdoms of life. One example for this is the lasso peptides, which are an emerging class of ribosomally assembled and post-translationally modified peptides (RiPPs) from bacteria that were first described in 1991.A wide range of interesting biological activities are known for these compounds, including antimicrobial, enzyme inhibitory, and receptor antagonistic activities. Since 2008, genome mining approaches allowed the targeted isolation and characterization of such molecules and helped to better understand this compound class and their biosynthesis. Their defining structural feature is a macrolactam ring that is threaded by the C-terminal tail and held in position by sterically demanding residues above and below the ring, resulting in a unique topology that is reminiscent of a lariat knot. The ring closure is achieved by an isopeptide bond formed between the N-terminal α-amino group of a glycine, alanine, serine, or cysteine and the carboxylic acid side chain of an aspartate or glutamate, which can be located at positions 7, 8, or 9 of the amino acid sequence.In this Account, we discuss the newest findings about these compounds, their biosynthesis, and their physicochemical properties. This includes the suggested mechanism through which the precursor peptide is enzymatically processed into a mature lasso peptide and crucial residues for enzymatic recognition. Furthermore, we highlight new insights considering the protease and thermal stability of lasso peptides and discuss why seven amino acid residue rings are likely to be the lower limit feasible for this compound class. To elucidate their fascinating three-dimensional structures, NMR spectroscopy is commonly employed. Therefore, the general methodology to elucidate these structures by NMR will be discussed and pitfalls for these approaches are highlighted. In addition, new tools provided by recent investigations to assess and prove the lasso topology without a complete structure elucidation will be summarized. These include techniques like ion mobility–mass spectrometry and a combined approach of thermal and carboxypeptidase treatment with subsequent LC-MS analysis. Nevertheless, even though much was learned about these compounds in recent years, their true native function and the exact enzymatic mechanism of their maturation remain elusive.