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Chem Biol. 2013 May 23;20(5):636-47. doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2013.04.011.

Metagenomic approaches for exploiting uncultivated bacteria as a resource for novel biosynthetic enzymology.

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Institute for Microbiology, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule-ETH Zurich, Wolfgang-Pauli-Strasse 10, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland.


Most biologically active microbial natural products are known from strains that can be isolated and cultivated in the laboratory. However, the genomics era has revealed that cultured bacteria represent a mere fraction of total estimated bacterial biodiversity. With the development of community genomics, termed metagenomics, the uncultivated majority became accessible for functional analysis. Through metagenomic studies, novel biocatalysts and biosynthetic pathways are being discovered at a pace previously not possible using traditional molecular biology techniques. Additionally, the study of uncultivated bacteria has provided valuable insights into previously overlooked biocatalysts from cultured strains. This perspective highlights recent discoveries from metagenomics of uncultivated bacteria and discusses the impact of those findings on the field of natural products.

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