Phage P1-derived artificial chromosomes facilitate heterologous expression of the FK506 gene cluster

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We describe a procedure for the conjugative transfer of phage P1-derived Artificial Chromosome (PAC) library clones containing large natural product gene clusters (≥70 kilobases) to Streptomyces coelicolor strains that have been engineered for improved heterologous production of natural products. This approach is demonstrated using the gene cluster for FK506 (tacrolimus), a clinically important immunosuppressant of high commercial value. The entire 83.5 kb FK506 gene cluster from Streptomyces tsukubaensis NRRL 18488 present in one 130 kb PAC clone was introduced into four different S. coelicolor derivatives and all produced FK506 and smaller amounts of the related compound FK520. FK506 yields were increased by approximately five-fold (from 1.2 mg L-1 to 5.5 mg L-1) in S. coelicolor M1146 containing the FK506 PAC upon over-expression of the FK506 LuxR regulatory gene fkbN. The PAC-based gene cluster conjugation methodology described here provides a tractable means to evaluate and manipulate FK506 biosynthesis and is readily applicable to other large gene clusters encoding natural products of interest to medicine, agriculture and biotechnology