Antiplasmodial and trypanocidal activity of violacein and deoxyviolacein produced from synthetic operons

12 Apr 2018

Abstract Background Violacein is a deep violet compound that is produced by a number of bacterial species. It is synthesized from tryptophan by a pathway that involves the sequential action of 5 different enzymes (encoded by genes vioA to vioE). Violacein has antibacterial, antiparasitic, and antiviral activities, and also has the potential of inducing apoptosis in certain cancer cells. Results Here, we describe the construction of a series of plasmids harboring the complete or partial violacein biosynthesis operon and their use to enable production of violacein and deoxyviolacein in E.coli. We performed in vitro assays to determine the biological activity of these compounds against Plasmodium, Trypanosoma, and mammalian cells. We found that, while deoxyviolacein has a lower activity against parasites than violacein, its toxicity to mammalian cells is insignificant compared to that of violacein. Conclusions We constructed E. coli strains capable of producing biologically active violacein and related compounds, and propose that deoxyviolacein might be a useful starting compound for the development of antiparasite drugs.