Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Microbial Cell Factories and BioMed Central.

Open Access Commentary

Myxobacteria: natural pharmaceutical factories

Juana Diez1, Javier P Martinez2, Jordi Mestres3, Florenz Sasse4, Ronald Frank4 and Andreas Meyerhans2*

Author Affiliations

1 Molecular Virology Group, Department of Experimental and Health Sciences, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain

2 ICREA Infection Biology Group, Department of Experimental and Health Sciences, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain

3 Chemogenomics Laboratory, Research Program on Biomedical Informatics (GRIB), IMIM-Hospital del Mar Research Institute and Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain

4 Department of Chemical Biology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany

For all author emails, please log on.

Microbial Cell Factories 2012, 11:52  doi:10.1186/1475-2859-11-52

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at: http://www.microbialcellfactories.com


Received:24 March 2012
Accepted:30 April 2012
Published:30 April 2012

© 2012 Diez et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Myxobacteria are amongst the top producers of natural products. The diversity and unique structural properties of their secondary metabolites is what make these social microbes highly attractive for drug discovery. Screening of products derived from these bacteria has revealed a puzzling amount of hits against infectious and non-infectious human diseases. Preying mainly on other bacteria and fungi, why would these ancient hunters manufacture compounds beneficial for us? The answer may be the targeting of shared processes and structural features conserved throughout evolution.

Keywords:
Myxobacteria; Natural products; Drug discovery; Chemical space

Commentary

Natural products from plants and microbes have played a pivotal role in drug discovery for more than a century [1-3]. In recent years, myxobacteria have matched fungi, actinomycetes as well as some species of the genus Bacillus as top producers of microbial secondary metabolites [4-6]. More importantly, screening campaigns have revealed a large proportion of the myxobacteria secondary metabolism to have activities against human diseases such as cancer, bacterial and viral infections [6-8].

Myxobacteria are a group of proteobacteria which reside mainly in soil [9,10]. These social microbes move by an axonal cellular motion called gliding [11,12], and although cells grow independently, they form collective swarms to prey and generate transient structures, called fruiting bodies (Figure 1), when resources are scarce [13]. During cooperative feeding, individual cells organize in waves which travel in a rippling-like motion [12,14]. As waves of cells collide, they aggregate in mounds that grow in size forming fruiting bodies that can harbor about 105 individuals. Cells within these structures become myxospores. Sporulation is triggered by signaling at the cell-cell contact surface when nutrients are available, and the myxospores germinate to eventually develop new swarms [11]. To control these processes, myxobacteria have evolved a unique mechanism of extracellular and intracellular signals, including diverse proteins and small metabolites [15].

thumbnailFigure 1 . Image of fruiting bodies from the myxobacteriumChondromyces crocatus(courtesy of Hans Reichenbach).

The chemical space of the myxobacteria metabolome is rare both in diversity and biological activities [5,16,17]. Their secondary metabolites present structural elements not commonly produced by other microbes such as unusual hybrids of polyketides and non-ribosomally made peptides [5,18]. In fact, around 40% of the described myxobacterial compounds represent novel chemical structures [9]. Furthermore, most small molecules from myxobacteria are not glycosylated as opposed to products derived from actinomycetes [19] and they target molecules that are often not targeted by metabolites from other microbes. Examples include inhibitors of mitochondrial respiration and eukaryotic protein synthesis, carboxylase and polymerase inhibitors and molecules that affect microtubule assembly [17]. Although the reasons why myxobacteria display such a large array of secondary metabolites are still not well understood, it has been argued that they confer a competitive advantage in the soil environment and are used to modulate cell-cell interactions within the population [20], to protect ecological niches in their competitive environment [17], and used as weapons for predation [13].

This level of chemical complexity requires an equally complex regulatory network to function, altogether enhancing the survival and competitivity of both the individual and the population [10]. This is reflected in the genetic space employed by myxobacteria for their secondary metabolism. One of the largest bacterial genome reported to date belongs to the myxobacterium Sorangium cellulosum with around 20 secondary metabolite loci and probably more to be discovered [15]. Another well studied myxobacterium, Myxococcus xanthus, has around 18 secondary metabolite gene clusters accounting for around 9% of its genome [21] which is more than some species of actinomycetes with around 6% of genome coverage for secondary metabolite loci [22,23]. Given this large space on the level of the genome, the known diversity between different myxobacteria and the vast number of different bacterial strains available in various collections, there seems to be an immense room for exploration and exploitation.

The amount of different small molecules from myxobacteria targeting other soil bacteria and fungi, around 29% and 54% respectively, and their higher production rates during exponential growth seems to reinforce the idea of a broad use of secondary metabolites for hunting [13,17]. Any predatory microorganism would benefit greatly from such a diverse armament but why would a large amount of these metabolites be active against human diseases and pathogens? An attractive explanation is that many of these products target shared processes or structural features conserved throughout evolution [24-26]. For example, the LSm1-7 protein complex in mammalian cells was shown to be required for efficient hepatitis C virus (HCV) translation and replication [25]. The Brome mosaic virus (BMV), a plant virus that can replicate in yeast, utilizes the respective yeast homologues for the same processes [27-29]. Likewise, the bacteriophage Q, a plus-strand RNA virus as HCV and BMV, requires Hfq, the homologue of LSm1 in bacteria for its expansion [30]. Thus there is a functional conservation of cellular and viral regulatory elements across kingdoms and virus groups that may be exploited for antiviral drug development. Indeed, a recent screen against processing body proteins that include the LSm1-7 complex revealed several hits from a myxobacterial metabolite library that overlapped with antiviral activities (Martinez et al., unpublished). To learn more about the bioactivity profile of these potent compounds, systematic testing in a broad panel of bioassays as offered by e.g. academic consortia such as EU-OPENSCREEN would be strategically worthwhile. However, to develop a metabolite hit into an applicable pharmaceutical compound is not an easy task, especially given the complexity of their natural product chemistry, side effects and poor bioavailability. Therefore, to make better use of natures pharmaceutical factories, new technologies such as engineering of microorganisms to synthesize complex molecular structures, in silico tools to predict the target profile and anticipate potential side effects of those metabolites, and targeted delivery strategies for example via nanoparticles are under the spotlight and will play an increasing role in the future [31-35].

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Acknowledgements

The authors of this article are supported by grants from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation BFU2010-20803 to JD, SAF2010-21336 to AM, BIO2011-26669 to JM and the Spanish Instituto de Salud Carlos III. The EU-OPENSCREEN preparatory phase project receives funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n 261861.

References

  1. Davies J, Ryan KS: Introducing the parvome: bioactive compounds in the microbial world.

    ACS Chem Biol 2012, 7(2):252-259. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  2. Mishra BB, Tiwari VK: Natural products: an evolving role in future drug discovery.

    Eur J Med Chem 2011, 46(10):4769-4807. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  3. Newman DJ, Cragg GM: Natural products as sources of new drugs over the 30 years from 1981 to 2010.

    J Nat Prod 2012, 75(3):311-335. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  4. Arguelles-Arias A, Ongena M, Halimi B, Lara Y, Brans A, Joris B, Fickers P: Bacillus amyloliquefaciens GA1 as a source of potent antibiotics and other secondary metabolites for biocontrol of plant pathogens.

    Microb Cell Fact 2009, 8:63. PubMed Abstract | BioMed Central Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  5. Bode HB, Muller R: Analysis of myxobacterial secondary metabolism goes molecular.

    J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol 2006, 33(7):577-588. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  6. Weissman KJ, Muller R: Myxobacterial secondary metabolites: bioactivities and modes-of-action.

    Nat Prod Rep 2010, 27(9):1276-1295. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  7. Gentzsch J, Hinkelmann B, Kaderali L, Irschik H, Jansen R, Sasse F, Frank R, Pietschmann T: Hepatitis C virus complete life cycle screen for identification of small molecules with pro- or antiviral activity.

    Antiviral Res 2011, 89(2):136-148. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  8. Nickeleit I, Zender S, Sasse F, Geffers R, Brandes G, Sorensen I, Steinmetz H, Kubicka S, Carlomagno T, Menche D, et al.: Argyrin a reveals a critical role for the tumor suppressor protein p27(kip1) in mediating antitumor activities in response to proteasome inhibition.

    Cancer Cell 2008, 14(1):23-35. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  9. Reichenbach H: Myxobacteria, producers of novel bioactive substances.

    J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol 2001, 27(3):149-156. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  10. Velicer GJ, Vos M: Sociobiology of the myxobacteria.

    Annu Rev Microbiol 2009, 63:599-623. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  11. Kaiser D: Coupling cell movement to multicellular development in myxobacteria.

    Nat Rev 2003, 1(1):45-54. Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  12. Nan B, Chen J, Neu JC, Berry RM, Oster G, Zusman DR: Myxobacteria gliding motility requires cytoskeleton rotation powered by proton motive force.

    Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2011, 108(6):2498-2503. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  13. Xiao Y, Wei X, Ebright R, Wall D: Antibiotic production by myxobacteria plays a role in predation.

    J Bacteriol 2011, 193(18):4626-4633. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  14. Berleman JE, Kirby JR: Deciphering the hunting strategy of a bacterial wolfpack.

    FEMS Microbiol Rev 2009, 33(5):942-957. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  15. Schneiker S, Perlova O, Kaiser O, Gerth K, Alici A, Altmeyer MO, Bartels D, Bekel T, Beyer S, Bode E, et al.: Complete genome sequence of the myxobacterium Sorangium cellulosum.

    Nat Biotechnol 2007, 25(11):1281-1289. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  16. Bon RS, Waldmann H: Bioactivity-guided navigation of chemical space.

    Acc Chem Res 2010, 43(8):1103-1114. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  17. Weissman KJ, Muller R: A brief tour of myxobacterial secondary metabolism.

    Bioorg Med Chem 2009, 17(6):2121-2136. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  18. Silakowski B, Kunze B, Muller R: Multiple hybrid polyketide synthase/non-ribosomal peptide synthetase gene clusters in the myxobacterium Stigmatella aurantiaca.

    Gene 2001, 275(2):233-240. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  19. Rix U, Fischer C, Remsing LL, Rohr J: Modification of post-PKS tailoring steps through combinatorial biosynthesis.

    Nat Prod Rep 2002, 19(5):542-580. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  20. Davies J, Spiegelman GB, Yim G: The world of subinhibitory antibiotic concentrations.

    Curr Opin Microbiol 2006, 9(5):445-453. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  21. Bode HB, Muller R: The impact of bacterial genomics on natural product research.

    Angew Chem Int Ed 2005, 44(42):6828-6846. Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  22. Bentley SD, Chater KF, Cerdeno-Tarraga AM, Challis GL, Thomson NR, James KD, Harris DE, Quail MA, Kieser H, Harper D, et al.: Complete genome sequence of the model actinomycete Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2).

    Nature 2002, 417(6885):141-147. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  23. Ikeda H, Ishikawa J, Hanamoto A, Shinose M, Kikuchi H, Shiba T, Sakaki Y, Hattori M, Omura S: Complete genome sequence and comparative analysis of the industrial microorganism Streptomyces avermitilis.

    Nat Biotechnol 2003, 21(5):526-531. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  24. Hong J: Role of natural product diversity in chemical biology.

    Curr Opin Chem Biol 2011, 15(3):350-354. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  25. Scheller N, Mina LB, Galao RP, Chari A, Gimenez-Barcons M, Noueiry A, Fischer U, Meyerhans A, Diez J: Translation and replication of hepatitis C virus genomic RNA depends on ancient cellular proteins that control mRNA fates.

    Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2009, 106(32):13517-13522. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  26. Schneider K, Kromer JO, Wittmann C, Alves-Rodrigues I, Meyerhans A, Diez J, Heinzle E: Metabolite profiling studies in Saccharomyces cerevisiae: an assisting tool to prioritize host targets for antiviral drug screening.

    Microb Cell Fact 2009, 8:12. PubMed Abstract | BioMed Central Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  27. Diez J, Ishikawa M, Kaido M, Ahlquist P: Identification and characterization of a host protein required for efficient template selection in viral RNA replication.

    Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2000, 97(8):3913-3918. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  28. Mas A, Alves-Rodrigues I, Noueiry A, Ahlquist P, Diez J: Host deadenylation-dependent mRNA decapping factors are required for a key step in brome mosaic virus RNA replication.

    J Virol 2006, 80(1):246-251. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  29. Noueiry AO, Diez J, Falk SP, Chen J, Ahlquist P: Yeast Lsm1p-7p/Pat1p deadenylation-dependent mRNA-decapping factors are required for brome mosaic virus genomic RNA translation.

    Mol Cell Biol 2003, 23(12):4094-4106. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  30. de Fernandez MT Franze, Eoyang L, August JT: Factor fraction required for the synthesis of bacteriophage Qbeta-RNA.

    Nature 1968, 219(5154):588-590. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  31. Andexer JN, Kendrew SG, Nur-e-Alam M, Lazos O, Foster TA, Zimmermann AS, Warneck TD, Suthar D, Coates NJ, Koehn FE, et al.: Biosynthesis of the immunosuppressants FK506, FK520, and rapamycin involves a previously undescribed family of enzymes acting on chorismate.

    Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2011, 108(12):4776-4781. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  32. Mestres J, Seifert SA, Oprea TI: Linking pharmacology to clinical reports: cyclobenzaprine and its possible association with serotonin syndrome.

    Clin Pharmacol Ther 2011, 90(5):662-665. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  33. Sharma P, Garg S: Pure drug and polymer based nanotechnologies for the improved solubility, stability, bioavailability and targeting of anti-HIV drugs.

    Adv Drug Deliv Rev 2010, 62(45):491-502. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  34. Villaverde A: Nanotechnology, bionanotechnology and microbial cell factories.

    Microb Cell Fact 2010, 9:53. PubMed Abstract | BioMed Central Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  35. Zhang MQ, Gaisser S, Nur EAM, Sheehan LS, Vousden WA, Gaitatzis N, Peck G, Coates NJ, Moss SJ, Radzom M, et al.: Optimizing natural products by biosynthetic engineering: discovery of nonquinone Hsp90 inhibitors.

    J Med Chem 2008, 51(18):5494-5497. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL