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Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2011 Aug;22(4):552-8. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2011.03.010. Epub 2011 Apr 15.

An ecological perspective of microbial secondary metabolism.

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M.G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research and Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, L8N 3Z5, Canada.


Bacteria and fungi produce a remarkable array of bioactive small molecules. Many of these have found use in medicine as chemotherapies to treat diseases ranging from infection and cancer to hyperlipidemia and autoimmune disorders. The applications may or may not reflect the actual targets for these compounds. Through careful studies of microbes, their associated molecules and their targets, a growing understanding of the ecology of microbial secondary metabolism is emerging that exposes the central role of secondary metabolites in many complex biological systems.

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