Increased Biosynthetic Gene Dosage in a Genome-Reduced Defensive Bacterial Symbiont

Lopera et al. (2017). mSystems 2 (6)
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Biochemistry Computer Science Applications Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics Genetics Microbiology Modeling and Simulation Molecular Biology Physiology
Secondary metabolites, which are small-molecule organic compounds produced by living organisms, provide or inspire drugs for many different diseases. These natural products have evolved over millions of years to provide a survival benefit to the producing organism and often display potent biological activity with important therapeutic applications. For instance, defensive compounds in the environment may be cytotoxic to eukaryotic cells, a property exploitable for cancer treatment. Here, we describe the genome of an uncultured symbiotic bacterium that makes such a cytotoxic metabolite. This symbiont is losing genes that do not endow a selective advantage in a hospitable host environment. Secondary metabolism genes, however, are repeated multiple times in the genome, directly demonstrating their selective advantage. This finding shows the strength of selective forces in symbiotic relationships and suggests that uncultured bacteria in such relationships should be targeted for drug discovery efforts.
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