Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (MS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Amy L. Lane

Second Advisor

Dr. Terri Ellis

Third Advisor

Dr. Judith Ochrietor

Department Chair

Dr. Cliff Ross

College Dean

Dr. Barbara A. Hetrick


Natural products are bioactive secondary metabolites produced by living organisms and are prevalently utilized as pharmaceutical drugs. Marine adapted organisms are a promising source of new natural products possessing unique chemical structures and biological activities. By studying the biosynthetic pathways employed by living organisms to produce natural products, insights into new strategies to generate molecules to combat disease and overcome drug resistance may be gained. This thesis study aimed to uncover the biosynthetic pathway employed by a marine actinomycete, Nocardiopsis sp. CMB-M0232, to catalyze the assembly of the nocardioazines. These molecules are a group of 2,5-diketopiperazine natural products that feature structurally unique functional groups. Nocardioazine A, the hypothesized end product of the nocardioazine biosynthetic pathway, exhibits anticancer activity. Bioinformatics analyses revealed three biosynthetic gene clusters from Nocardiopsis encoding proteins with hypothesized roles in nocardioazine A biosynthesis. Two cyclodipeptide synthases (CDPSs), NozA and NcdA, were biochemically characterized in vivo and in vitro to reveal that both are substrate specific enzymes that utilize tryptophan-charged tRNA substrates to catalyze assembly of cyclo(L-Trp-L-Trp), a proposed precursor of nocardioazines. Fidelity is uncommon amongst characterized CDPSs, making NozA and NcdA important CDPS family additions. This study also aimed to characterize NozD and NozE, two cytochrome P450 homologs with predicted roles as diketopiperazine-tailoring enzymes. Heterologous expression of these enzymes in Streptomyces strains was not able to confirm the functions of NozD and NozE but set the stage for future studies to optimize conditions for probing their roles in nocardioazine A biosynthesis. The results gathered from this study, along with future work to better understand the engineering of unique functional groups from Nocardiopsis may provide opportunities to produce new bioactive molecules.