Incorporation of 13C-labelled glucose, acetate, pyruvate or erythrose allowed the determination of the origin of the carbon atoms of triterpenoids of the hopane series and/or of the ubiquinones from several bacteria (Zymomonas mobilis, Methylobacterium fujisawaense, Escherichia coli and Alicyclobacillus acidoterrestris) confirmed our earlier results obtained by incorporation of 13C-labelled acetate into the hopanoids of other bacteria and led to the identification of a novel biosynthetic route for the early steps of isoprenoid biosynthesis. The C5 framework of isoprenic units results most probably (i) from the condensation of a C2 unit derived from pyruvate decarboxylation (e.g. thiamine-activated acetaldehyde) on the C-2 carbonyl group of a triose phosphate derivative issued probably from dihydroxyacetone phosphate and not from pyruvate and (ii) from a transposition step. Although this hypothetical biosynthetic pathway resembles that of L-valine biosynthesis, this amino acid or its C5 precursors could be excluded as intermediates in the formation of isoprenic units.

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