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Int Microbiol. 1998 Dec;1(4):259-64.

Induction of microbial secondary metabolism.

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Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139, USA.


Precursors often stimulate production of secondary metabolites either by increasing the amount of a limiting precursor, by inducing a biosynthetic enzyme (synthase) or both. These are usually amino acids but other small molecules also function as inducers. The most well-known are the auto-inducers which include gamma-butyrolactones (butanolides) of the actinomycetes, N-acylhomoserine lactones of Gram-negative bacteria, oligopeptides of Gram-positive bacteria, and B-factor (3'-[1-butylphosphoryl] adenosine) of Amycolatopsis mediterranei. The actinomycete butanolides exert their effects via receptor proteins which normally repress chemical and morphological differentiation (secondary metabolism and differentiation into aerial mycelia and spores respectively) but, when complexed with the butanolide, can no longer function. Homoserine lactones of Gram-negative bacteria function at high cell density and are structurally related to the butanolides. They turn on plant and animal virulence, light emission, plasmid transfer, and production of pigments, cyanide and beta-lactam antibiotics. They are made by enzymes homologous to Lux1, excreted by the cell, enter other cells at high density, bind to a LuxR homologue, the complex then binding to DNA upstream of genes controlled by "quorum sensing" and turning on their expression. Quorum sensing also operates in the case of the peptide pheromones of the Gram-positive bacteria. Here, secretion is accomplished by an ATP binding casette (ABC transporter), the secreted pheromone being recognized by a sensor component of a two-component signal transduction system. The pheromone often induces its own synthesis as well as those proteins involved in protein/peptide antibiotic (including bacteriocins and lantibiotics) production, virulence and genetic competence. The B-factor of A. mediterranei is an inducer of ansamycin (rifamycin) formation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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