Microbial isopenicillin N synthase genes: Structure, function, diversity and evolution

Gerald Cohen*, Dov Shiffman, Moshe Mevarech, Yair Aharonowitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Clinically and economically, penicillins and cephalosporins are the most important class of the β-lactam antibiotics. They are produced by a wide variety of microorganisms including numerous species of Streptomyces, some unicellular bacteria and several filamentous fungi. A key step common to their biosynthetic pathways is the conversion of a linear, cysteine-containing tripeptide to a bicyclic β-lactam antibiotic by isopenicillin N synthase. Recent successes in the cloning and expresion of isopenicillin N synthase genes now permit production of a plentiful supply of this enzyme, which may be used for structural and mechanistic studies, or for biotechnological applications in the creation of novel β-lactam compounds from peptide analogues. New ideas concerning the evolution and prevalence of the penicillin and cephalosporin biosynthetic genes have emerged from studies of isopenicillin N synthase genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-111
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in Biotechnology
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 1990


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