Metagenomic discovery of polybrominated diphenyl ether biosynthesis by marine sponges

Published online on March 20, 2017.

Abstract: Naturally produced polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) pervade the marine environment and structurally resemble toxic man-made brominated flame retardants. PBDEs bioaccumulate in marine animals and are likely transferred to the human food chain. However, the biogenic basis for PBDE production in one of their most prolific sources, marine sponges of the order Dysideidae, remains unidentified. Here, we report the discovery of PBDE biosynthetic gene clusters within sponge-microbiome-associated cyanobacterial endosymbionts through the use of an unbiased metagenome-mining approach. Using expression of PBDE biosynthetic genes in heterologous cyanobacterial hosts, we correlate the structural diversity of naturally produced PBDEs to modifications within PBDE biosynthetic gene clusters in multiple sponge holobionts. Our results establish the genetic and molecular foundation for the production of PBDEs in one of the most abundant natural sources of these molecules, further setting the stage for a metagenomic-based inventory of other PBDE sources in the marine environment.

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Enzymatic Halogenation and Dehalogenation Reactions: Pervasive and Mechanistically Diverse

Published online on January 20, 2017.

Abstract: Naturally produced halogenated compounds are ubiquitous across all domains of life where they perform a multitude of biological functions and adopt a diversity of chemical structures. Accordingly, a diverse collection of enzyme catalysts to install and remove halogens from organic scaffolds has evolved in nature. Accounting for the different chemical properties of the four halogen atoms (fluorine, chlorine, bromine, and iodine) and the diversity and chemical reactivity of their organic substrates, enzymes performing biosynthetic and degradative halogenation chemistry utilize numerous mechanistic strategies involving oxidation, reduction, and substitution. Biosynthetic halogenation reactions range from simple aromatic substitutions to stereoselective C–H functionalizations on remote carbon centers and can initiate the formation of simple to complex ring structures. Dehalogenating enzymes, on the other hand, are best known for removing halogen atoms from man-made organohalogens, yet also function naturally, albeit rarely, in metabolic pathways. This review details the scope and mechanism of nature’s halogenation and dehalogenation enzymatic strategies, highlights gaps in our understanding, and posits where new advances in the field might arise in the near future.

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Non-targeted screening of halogenated organic compounds in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Published online on January 5, 2017. 

Abstract: To catalog the diversity and abundance of halogenated organic compounds (HOCs) accumulating in high trophic marine species from the southwestern Atlantic Ocean, tissue from bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) stranded or incidentally captured along the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, were analyzed by a non-targeted approach based on GC×GC/TOF-MS. A total of 158 individual HOCs from 32 different structural classes were detected in the blubber of 4 adult male T. truncatus. Nearly 90 percent of the detected compounds are not routinely monitored in the environment. DDT-related and mirex/dechlorane-related compounds were the most abundant classes of anthropogenic origin. Methoxy-brominated diphenyl ethers and chlorinated methyl- and dimethyl bipyrroles (MBPs and DMBPs) were the most abundant natural products. Reported for the first time in southwestern Atlantic cetaceans and in contrast to North American marine mammals, chlorinated MBPs and DMBPs were more diverse and abundant than their brominated and/or mixed halogenated counterparts. HOC profiles in coastal T. tursiops from Brazil and California revealed a distinct difference, with a higher abundance of mirex/dechloranes and chlorinated bipyrroles in the Brazilian dolphins. Thirty-six percent of the detected HOCs had an unknown structure. These results suggest broad geographical differences in the patterns of bioaccumulative chemicals found in the marine environment, and indicate the need to develop more complete catalogs of HOCs from various marine environments.

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Ozone-Activated Halogenation of Mono- and Dimethylbipyrrole in Seawater

Published online on December 6, 2016. 

Abstract: Polyhalogenated N-methylbipyrroles of two different structure classes have been detected worldwide in over 100 environmental samples including seawater, bird eggs, fish, dolphin blubber, and in the breast milk of humans that consume seafood. These molecules are concentrated in the fatty tissues in comparable abundance to some of the most important anthropogenic contaminants, such as the halogenated flame-retardants and pesticides. Although the origin of these compounds is still unknown, we present evidence that the production of these materials can involve the direct ozone activated seawater halogenation of N-methylbipyrrole precursors. This observation shows that environmental polyhalogenated bipyrroles can be produced via an abiotic process, and implies that the ozone activated halogenation of a variety of natural and anthropogenic seawater organics may be a significant process occurring in surface ocean waters.

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Newly Identified DDT-Related Compounds Accumulating in Southern California Bottlenose Dolphins

Published online on October 14, 2016.

Abstract: Nontargeted GC×GC-TOF/MS analysis of blubber from 8 common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) inhabiting the Southern California Bight was performed to identify novel, bioaccumulative DDT-related compounds and to determine their abundance relative to the commonly studied DDT-related compounds. We identified 45 bioaccumulative DDT-related compounds of which the majority (80%) is not typically monitored in environmental media. Identified compounds include transformation products, technical mixture impurities such as tris(chlorophenyl)methane (TCPM), the presumed TCPM metabolite tris(chlorophenyl)methanol (TCPMOH), and structurally related compounds with unknown sources, such as hexa- to octachlorinated diphenylethene. To investigate impurities in pesticide mixtures as possible sources of these compounds, we analyzed technical DDT, the primary source of historical contamination in the region, and technical Dicofol, a current use pesticide that contains DDT-related compounds. The technical mixtures contained only 33% of the compounds identified in the blubber, suggesting that transformation products contribute to the majority of the load of DDT-related contaminants in these sentinels of ocean health. Quantitative analysis revealed that TCPM was the second most abundant compound class detected in the blubber, following DDE, and TCPMOH loads were greater than DDT. QSPR estimates verified 4,4′,4″-TCPM and 4,4′4,″-TCPMOH are persistent and bioaccumulative.

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Enzymatic Reductive Dehalogenation Controls the Biosynthesis of Marine Bacterial Pyrroles.

Published online on September 27, 2016.

Abstract: Enzymes capable of performing dehalogenating reactions have attracted tremendous contemporary attention due to their potential application in the bioremediation of anthropogenic polyhalogenated persistent organic pollutants. Nature, in particular the marine environment, is also a prolific source of polyhalogenated organic natural products. The study of the biosynthesis of these natural products has furnished a diverse array of halogenation biocatalysts, but thus far no examples of dehalogenating enzymes have been reported from a secondary metabolic pathway. Here we show that the penultimate step in the biosynthesis of the highly brominated marine bacterial product pentabromopseudilin is catalyzed by an unusual debrominase Bmp8 that utilizes a redox thiol mechanism to remove the C-2 bromine atom of 2,3,4,5-tetrabromopyrrole to facilitate oxidative coupling to 2,4-dibromophenol. To the best of our knowledge, Bmp8 is first example of a dehalogenating enzyme from the established genetic and biochemical context of a natural product biosynthetic pathway.

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Biosynthesis of coral settlement cue tetrabromopyrrole in marine bacteria by a uniquely adapted brominase-thioesterase enzyme pair.

Published online on March 21, 2016.

Abstract: Halogenated pyrroles (halopyrroles) are common chemical moieties found in bioactive bacterial natural products. The halopyrrole moieties of mono- and dihalopyrrole-containing compounds arise from a conserved mechanism in which a proline-derived pyrrolyl group bound to a carrier protein is first halogenated and then elaborated by peptidic or polyketide extensions. This paradigm is broken during the marine pseudoalteromonad bacterial biosynthesis of the coral larval settlement cue tetrabromopyrrole (1), which arises from the substitution of the proline-derived carboxylate by a bromine atom. To understand the molecular basis for decarboxylative bromination in the biosynthesis of 1, we sequenced two Pseudoalteromonas genomes and identified a conserved four-gene locus encoding the enzymes involved in its complete biosynthesis. Through total in vitro reconstitution of the biosynthesis of 1 using purified enzymes and biochemical interrogation of individual biochemical steps, we show that all four bromine atoms in 1 are installed by the action of a single flavin-dependent halogenase: Bmp2. Tetrabromination of the pyrrole induces a thioesterase-mediated offloading reaction from the carrier protein and activates the biosynthetic intermediate for decarboxylation. Insights into the tetrabrominating activity of Bmp2 were obtained from the high-resolution crystal structure of the halogenase contrasted against structurally homologous halogenase Mpy16 that forms only a dihalogenated pyrrole in marinopyrrole biosynthesis. Structure-guided mutagenesis of the proposed substrate-binding pocket of Bmp2 led to a reduction in the degree of halogenation catalyzed. Our study provides a biogenetic basis for the biosynthesis of 1 and sets a firm foundation for querying the biosynthetic potential for the production of 1 in marine (meta)genomes.

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Unusual flavoenzyme catalysis in marine bacteria

Published online on January 20, 2016.

Abstract: Ever since the discovery of the flavin cofactor more than 80 years ago, flavin-dependent enzymes have emerged as ubiquitous and versatile redox catalysts in primary metabolism. Yet, the recent advances in the discovery and characterization of secondary metabolic pathways exposed new roles for flavin-mediated catalysis in the generation of structurally complex natural products. Here, we review a selection of key biosynthetic flavoenzymes from marine bacterial secondary metabolism and illustrate how their functional and mechanistic investigation expanded our view of the cofactor's chemical repertoire and led to the discovery of a previously unknown flavin redox state.

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Chemoenzymatic Synthesis of Acyl Coenzyme A Substrates Enables in Situ Labeling of Small Molecules and Proteins

Published online on September 3, 2015.

Abstract: A chemoenzymatic approach to generate fully functional acyl coenzyme A molecules that are then used as substrates to drive in situ acyl transfer reactions is described. Mass spectrometry based assays to verify the identity of acyl coenzyme A enzymatic products are also illustrated. The approach is responsive to a diverse array of carboxylic acids that can be elaborated to their corresponding coenzyme A thioesters, with potential applications in wide-ranging chemical biology studies that utilize acyl coenzyme A substrates.

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Identifying Bioaccumulative Halogenated Organic Compounds Using a Nontargeted Analytical Approach: Seabirds as Sentinels

Published online on March 28, 2015.

Abstract: Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are typically monitored via targeted mass spectrometry, which potentially identifies only a fraction of the contaminants actually present in environmental samples. With new anthropogenic compounds continuously introduced to the environment, novel and proactive approaches that provide a comprehensive alternative to targeted methods are needed in order to more completely characterize the diversity of known and unknown compounds likely to cause adverse effects. Nontargeted mass spectrometry attempts to extensively screen for compounds, providing a feasible approach for identifying contaminants that warrant future monitoring. We employed a nontargeted analytical method using comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled to time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC×GC/TOF-MS) to characterize halogenated organic compounds (HOCs) in California Black skimmer (Rynchops niger) eggs. Our study identified 111 HOCs; 84 of these compounds were regularly detected via targeted approaches, while 27 were classified as typically unmonitored or unknown. Typically unmonitored compounds of note in bird eggs included tris(4-chlorophenyl)methane (TCPM), tris(4-chlorophenyl)methanol (TCPMOH), triclosan, permethrin, heptachloro-1'-methyl-1,2'-bipyrrole (MBP), as well as four halogenated unknown compounds that could not be identified through database searching or the literature. The presence of these compounds in Black skimmer eggs suggests they are persistent, bioaccumulative, potentially biomagnifying, and maternally transferring. Our results highlight the utility and importance of employing nontargeted analytical tools to assess true contaminant burdens in organisms, as well as to demonstrate the value in using environmental sentinels to proactively identify novel contaminants.

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Fish Oil Contaminated with Persistent Organic Pollutants Reduces Antioxidant Capacity and Induces Oxidative Stress without Affecting Its Capacity to Lower Lipid Concentrations and Systemic Inflammation in Rats

Published online on March 18, 2015.

Abstract: Numerous studies have investigated the benefits of fish, fish oil, and v-3 (n–3) polyunsaturated fatty acids against cardiovascular diseases. However, concern surrounding contamination with persistent organic pollutants (POPs) prompts caution in the recommendation to consume fish and fish oil. The present study compared the effects of fish oil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCs) on serum lipid profiles, inflammation, and oxidative stress. 

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Complexity of Naturally Produced Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers Revealed via Mass Spectrometry

Published online on January 5, 2015.

Abstract: Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are persistent and bioaccumulative anthropogenic and natural chemicals that are broadly distributed in the marine environment. PBDEs are potentially toxic due to inhibition of various mammalian signaling pathways and enzymatic reactions. PBDE isoforms vary in toxicity in accordance with structural differences, primarily in the number and pattern of hydroxyl moieties afforded upon a conserved core structure. Over four decades of isolation and discovery-based efforts have established an impressive repertoire of natural PBDEs. Based on our recent reports describing the bacterial biosyntheses of PBDEs, we predicted the presence of additional classes of PBDEs to those previously identified from marine sources. Using mass spectrometry and NMR spectroscopy, we now establish the existence of new structural classes of PBDEs in marine sponges. Our findings expand the chemical space explored by naturally produced PBDEs, which may inform future environmental toxicology studies. Furthermore, we provide evidence for iodinated PBDEs and direct attention toward the contribution of promiscuous halogenating enzymes in further expanding the diversity of these polyhalogenated marine natural products.

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Nontargeted Biomonitoring of Halogenated Organic Compounds in Two Ecotypes of Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from the Southern California Bight

Published online on December 19, 2014.

Abstract: Targeted environmental monitoring reveals contamination by known chemicals, but may exclude potentially pervasive but unknown compounds. Marine mammals are sentinels of persistent and bioaccumulative contaminants due to their longevity and high trophic position. Using nontargeted analysis, we constructed a mass spectral library of 327 persistent and bioaccumulative compounds identified in blubber from two ecotypes of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) sampled in the Southern California Bight. This library of halogenated organic compounds (HOCs) consisted of 180 anthropogenic contaminants, 41 natural products, 4 with mixed sources, 8 with unknown sources, and 94 with partial structural characterization and unknown sources. The abundance of compounds whose structures could not be fully elucidated highlights the prevalence of undiscovered HOCs accumulating in marine food webs. Eighty-six percent of the identified compounds are not currently monitored, including 133 known anthropogenic chemicals. Compounds related to dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) were the most abundant. Natural products were, in some cases, detected at abundances similar to anthropogenic compounds. The profile of naturally occurring HOCs differed between ecotypes, suggesting more abundant offshore sources of these compounds. This nontargeted analytical framework provided a comprehensive list of HOCs that may be characteristic of the region, and its application within monitoring surveys may suggest new chemicals for evaluation.

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Targeted Capture and Heterologous Expression of the Pseudoalteromonas Alterochromide Gene Cluster in Escherichia coli Represents a Promising Natural Product Exploratory Platform.

Published online on August 20, 2014.

Abstract: Marine pseudoalteromonads represent a very promising source of biologically important natural product molecules. To access and exploit the full chemical capacity of these cosmopolitan Gram-(-) bacteria, we sought to apply universal synthetic biology tools to capture, refactor, and express biosynthetic gene clusters for the production of complex organic compounds in reliable host organisms. Here, we report a platform for the capture of proteobacterial gene clusters using a transformation-associated recombination (TAR) strategy coupled with direct pathway manipulation and expression in Escherichia coli. The ∼34 kb pathway for production of alterochromide lipopeptides by Pseudoalteromonas piscicida JCM 20779 was captured and heterologously expressed in E. coli utilizing native and E. coli-based T7 promoter sequences. Our approach enabled both facile production of the alterochromides and in vivo interrogation of gene function associated with alterochromide's unusual brominated lipid side chain. This platform represents a simple but effective strategy for the discovery and biosynthetic characterization of natural products from marine proteobacteria.

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Enzymatic Synthesis of Polybrominated Dioxins from the Marine Environment

Published online on July 25, 2014.

Abstract: Polyhalogenated dibenzo-p-dioxins are arguably among the most toxic molecules known to man. In addition to anthropogenic sources, marine invertebrates also harbor polybrominated dibenzo-p-dioxins of as yet unknown biogenic origin. Here, we report that the bmp gene locus in marine bacteria, a recently characterized source of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, can also synthesize dibenzo-p-dioxins by employing different phenolic initiator molecules. Our findings also diversify the structural classes of diphenyl ethers accessed by the bmpbiosynthetic pathway. This report lays the biochemical foundation of a likely biogenetic origin of dibenzo-p-dioxins present in the marine metabolome and greatly expands the toxicity potential of marine derived polyhaloganated natural products.

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Biosynthesis of polybrominated aromatic organic compounds by marine bacteria

Published online on June 29, 2014.

Abstract: Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polybrominated bipyrroles are natural products that bioaccumulate in the marine food chain. PBDEs have attracted widespread attention because of their persistence in the environment and potential toxicity to humans. However, the natural origins of PBDE biosynthesis are not known. Here we report marine bacteria as producers of PBDEs and establish a genetic and molecular foundation for their production that unifies paradigms for the elaboration of bromophenols and bromopyrroles abundant in marine biota. We provide biochemical evidence of marine brominases revealing decarboxylative-halogenation enzymology previously unknown among halogenating enzymes. Biosynthetic motifs discovered in our study were used to mine sequence databases to discover unrealized marine bacterial producers of organobromine compounds.

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