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      The Sound of Silence: Activating Silent Biosynthetic Gene Clusters in Marine Microorganisms


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          Unlocking the rich harvest of marine microbial ecosystems has the potential to both safeguard the existence of our species for the future, while also presenting significant lifestyle benefits for commercial gain. However, while significant advances have been made in the field of marine biodiscovery, leading to the introduction of new classes of therapeutics for clinical medicine, cosmetics and industrial products, much of what this natural ecosystem has to offer is locked in, and essentially hidden from our screening methods. Releasing this silent potential represents a significant technological challenge, the key to which is a comprehensive understanding of what controls these systems. Heterologous expression systems have been successful in awakening a number of these cryptic marine biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs). However, this approach is limited by the typically large size of the encoding sequences. More recently, focus has shifted to the regulatory proteins associated with each BGC, many of which are signal responsive raising the possibility of exogenous activation. Abundant among these are the LysR-type family of transcriptional regulators, which are known to control production of microbial aromatic systems. Although the environmental signals that activate these regulatory systems remain unknown, it offers the exciting possibility of evoking mimic molecules and synthetic expression systems to drive production of potentially novel natural products in microorganisms. Success in this field has the potential to provide a quantum leap forward in medical and industrial bio-product development. To achieve these new endpoints, it is clear that the integrated efforts of bioinformaticians and natural product chemists will be required as we strive to uncover new and potentially unique structures from silent or cryptic marine gene clusters.

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          Complete genome sequence of the model actinomycete Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2).

          Streptomyces coelicolor is a representative of the group of soil-dwelling, filamentous bacteria responsible for producing most natural antibiotics used in human and veterinary medicine. Here we report the 8,667,507 base pair linear chromosome of this organism, containing the largest number of genes so far discovered in a bacterium. The 7,825 predicted genes include more than 20 clusters coding for known or predicted secondary metabolites. The genome contains an unprecedented proportion of regulatory genes, predominantly those likely to be involved in responses to external stimuli and stresses, and many duplicated gene sets that may represent 'tissue-specific' isoforms operating in different phases of colonial development, a unique situation for a bacterium. An ancient synteny was revealed between the central 'core' of the chromosome and the whole chromosome of pathogens Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The genome sequence will greatly increase our understanding of microbial life in the soil as well as aiding the generation of new drug candidates by genetic engineering.
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            Production of the antimalarial drug precursor artemisinic acid in engineered yeast.

            Malaria is a global health problem that threatens 300-500 million people and kills more than one million people annually. Disease control is hampered by the occurrence of multi-drug-resistant strains of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Synthetic antimalarial drugs and malarial vaccines are currently being developed, but their efficacy against malaria awaits rigorous clinical testing. Artemisinin, a sesquiterpene lactone endoperoxide extracted from Artemisia annua L (family Asteraceae; commonly known as sweet wormwood), is highly effective against multi-drug-resistant Plasmodium spp., but is in short supply and unaffordable to most malaria sufferers. Although total synthesis of artemisinin is difficult and costly, the semi-synthesis of artemisinin or any derivative from microbially sourced artemisinic acid, its immediate precursor, could be a cost-effective, environmentally friendly, high-quality and reliable source of artemisinin. Here we report the engineering of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to produce high titres (up to 100 mg l(-1)) of artemisinic acid using an engineered mevalonate pathway, amorphadiene synthase, and a novel cytochrome P450 monooxygenase (CYP71AV1) from A. annua that performs a three-step oxidation of amorpha-4,11-diene to artemisinic acid. The synthesized artemisinic acid is transported out and retained on the outside of the engineered yeast, meaning that a simple and inexpensive purification process can be used to obtain the desired product. Although the engineered yeast is already capable of producing artemisinic acid at a significantly higher specific productivity than A. annua, yield optimization and industrial scale-up will be required to raise artemisinic acid production to a level high enough to reduce artemisinin combination therapies to significantly below their current prices.
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              Insights into secondary metabolism from a global analysis of prokaryotic biosynthetic gene clusters.

              Although biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) have been discovered for hundreds of bacterial metabolites, our knowledge of their diversity remains limited. Here, we used a novel algorithm to systematically identify BGCs in the extensive extant microbial sequencing data. Network analysis of the predicted BGCs revealed large gene cluster families, the vast majority uncharacterized. We experimentally characterized the most prominent family, consisting of two subfamilies of hundreds of BGCs distributed throughout the Proteobacteria; their products are aryl polyenes, lipids with an aryl head group conjugated to a polyene tail. We identified a distant relationship to a third subfamily of aryl polyene BGCs, and together the three subfamilies represent the largest known family of biosynthetic gene clusters, with more than 1,000 members. Although these clusters are widely divergent in sequence, their small molecule products are remarkably conserved, indicating for the first time the important roles these compounds play in Gram-negative cell biology. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                Role: Academic Editor
                Mar Drugs
                Mar Drugs
                Marine Drugs
                31 July 2015
                August 2015
                : 13
                : 8
                : 4754-4783
                [1 ]BIOMERIT Research Centre, School of Microbiology, University College Cork—National University of Ireland, Cork, Ireland; E-Mails: j.reen@ 123456ucc.ie (F.J.R.); stefano.romano@ 123456ucc.ie (S.R.)
                [2 ]School of Microbiology, University College Cork—National University of Ireland, Cork, Ireland; E-Mail: a.dobson@ 123456ucc.ie
                [3 ]School of Biomedical Sciences, Curtin University, Perth WA 6845, Australia
                Author notes
                [* ]Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail: f.ogara@ 123456ucc.ie ; Tel.: +353-21-490-1315; Fax: +353-21-427-5934.
                © 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

                This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


                Pharmacology & Pharmaceutical medicine
                silent,cryptic,bioactive gene clusters,polyketide synthases,non-ribosomal peptide synthases,metagenomics,heterologous expression


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