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Amos, GCA, Awakawa T, Tuttle RN, Letzel AC, Kim MC, Kudo Y, Fenical W, Moore BS, Jensen PR.  2017.  Comparative transcriptomics as a guide to natural product discovery and biosynthetic gene cluster functionality. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114:E11121-E11130.   10.1073/pnas.1714381115   AbstractWebsite

Bacterial natural products remain an important source of new medicines. DNA sequencing has revealed that a majority of natural product biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) maintained in bacterial genomes have yet to be linked to the small molecules whose biosynthesis they encode. Efforts to discover the products of these orphan BGCs are driving the development of genome mining techniques based on the premise that many are transcriptionally silent during normal laboratory cultivation. Here, we employ comparative transcriptomics to assess BGC expression among four closely related strains of marine bacteria belonging to the genus Salinispora. The results reveal that slightly more than half of the BGCs are expressed at levels that should facilitate product detection. By comparing the expression profiles of similar gene clusters in different strains, we identified regulatory genes whose inactivation appears linked to cluster silencing. The significance of these subtle differences between expressed and silent BGCs could not have been predicted a priori and was only revealed by comparative transcriptomics. Evidence for the conservation of silent clusters among a larger number of strains for which genome sequences are available suggests they may be under different regulatory control from the expressed forms or that silencing may represent an underappreciated mechanism of gene cluster evolution. Coupling gene expression and metabolomics data established a bioinformatic link between the salinipostins and their associated BGC, while genetic manipulation established the genetic basis for this series of compounds, which were previously unknown from Salinispora pacifica.

Gallagher, KA, Wanger G, Henderson J, Llorente M, Hughes CC, Jensen PR.  2017.  Ecological implications of hypoxia-triggered shifts in secondary metabolism. Environmental Microbiology. 19:2182-2191.   10.1111/1462-2920.13700   AbstractWebsite

Members of the actinomycete genus Streptomyces are non-motile, filamentous bacteria that are well-known for the production of biomedically relevant secondary metabolites. While considered obligate aerobes, little is known about how these bacteria respond to periods of reduced oxygen availability in their natural habitats, which include soils and ocean sediments. Here, we provide evidence that the marine streptomycete strain CNQ-525 can reduce MnO2 via a diffusible mechanism. We investigated the effects of hypoxia on secondary metabolite production and observed a shift away from the antibiotic napyradiomycin towards 8-aminoflaviolin, an intermediate in the napyradiomycin biosynthetic pathway. We purified 8-amino-flaviolin and demonstrated that it is reversibly redox-active (midpoint potential -474.5 mV), indicating that it has the potential to function as an endogenous extracellular electron shuttle. This study provides evidence that environmentally triggered changes in secondary metabolite production may provide clues to the ecological functions of specific compounds, and that Gram-positive bacteria considered to be obligate aerobes may play previously unrecognized roles in biogeochemical cycling through mechanisms that include extracellular electron shuttling.