Echinomycin is a nonribosomal depsipeptide natural product with a range of interesting bioactivities that make it an important target for drug discovery and development. It contains a thioacetal bridge, a unique chemical motif derived from the disulfide bond of its precursor antibiotic triostin A by the action of an S-adenosyl-L-methionine-dependent methyltransferase, Ecm18. The crystal structure of Ecm18 in complex with its reaction products S-adenosyl-L-homocysteine and echinomycin was determined at 1.50 Å resolution. Phasing was achieved using a new molecular replacement package called AMPLE, which automatically derives search models from structure predictions based on ab initio protein modelling. Structural analysis indicates that a combination of proximity effects, medium effects, and catalysis by strain drives the unique transformation of the disulfide bond into the thioacetal linkage.
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