Investigations into the biocatalytic potential of modular polyketide synthase ketoreductases
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The production of new drugs as potential pharmaceutical targets is arguably one of the most important avenues of medicine, as existing diseases not only require treatment, but it is also certain that new diseases will appear in the future which will need treatment. Indeed, existing medicines such as antibiotics and immunosuppressants maintain their current activities in their respective realms, yet the molecular and stereochemical complexity of these compounds cause a burden on organic synthetic chemists that may prohibit the high yields required to manufacture a drug. The enzyme systems that naturally manufacture these compounds are incredibly efficient in doing so, and also do not use environmentally harmful solvents, chiral auxiliaries, or metals that are utilized in the current syntheses of these compounds; therefore utilizing these enzymes' machinery for the biocatalysis of new medicinally-relevant compounds, as researchers have in the past, is undeniably a rewarding endeavor. In order to harness these systems' biocatalytic potential, we must understand the processes which they operate. This work focuses on ketoreductase domains, since they are responsible for setting most of the stereocenters found within these complex secondary metabolites. We have supplied a library of substrates to multiple ketoreductases to test their limits of stereospecificity and found that, for the most part, they maintain their natural product stereospecificity seen in nature. We were even able to convert a previously nonstereospecific ketoreductase to a stereospecific catalyst. We have also developed a new technique to follow ketoreductase catalysis in real-time, which can also differentiate between which diastereomeric product is being produced. Finally, we have elucidated the structure of a ketoreductase that reduces non-canonically at the [alpha]- and [beta]- position, and functionally characterized its activities on shortened substrate analogs. With the knowledge gained from this dissertation we hope that the use of ketoreductases as biocatalysts in the biosynthesis of new natural product-based medicines is a much nearer reality than before.