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Mol Microbiol. 2017 Nov;106(4):597-613. doi: 10.1111/mmi.13837. Epub 2017 Oct 11.

Actinorhodin is a redox-active antibiotic with a complex mode of action against Gram-positive cells.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Actinorhodin is a blue-pigmented, redox-active secondary metabolite that is produced by the bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor. Although actinorhodin has been used as a model compound for studying secondary metabolism, its biological activity is not well understood. Indeed, redox-active antibiotics in general have not been widely investigated at the mechanistic level. In this work, we have conducted a comprehensive chemical genetic investigation of actinorhodin's antibacterial effect on target organisms. We find that actinorhodin is a potent, bacteriostatic, pH-responsive antibiotic. Cells activate at least three stress responses in the presence of actinorhodin, including those responsible for managing oxidative damage, protein damage and selected forms of DNA damage. We find that mutations in the Staphylococcus aureus walRKHI operon can confer low-level resistance to actinorhodin, indicating possible targeting of the cell envelope. Our study indicates a complex mechanism of action, involving multiple molecular targets, that is distinct from other antibiotics.

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