A comparative metabologenomic approach reveals mechanistic insights into Streptomyces antibiotic crypticity

Yunci Qi, Keshav K. Nepal, Joshua A.V. Blodgett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Streptomyces genomes harbor numerous, biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) encoding for drug-like compounds. While some of these BGCs readily yield expected products, many do not. Biosynthetic crypticity represents a significant hurdle to drug discovery, and the biological mechanisms that underpin it remain poorly understood. Polycyclic tetramate macrolactam (PTM) antibiotic production is widespread within the Streptomyces genus, and examples of active and cryptic PTM BGCs are known. To reveal further insights into the causes of biosynthetic crypticity, we employed a PTM-targeted comparative metabologenomics approach to analyze a panel of S. griseus clade strains that included both poor and robust PTM producers. By comparing the genomes and PTM production profiles of these strains, we systematically mapped the PTM promoter architecture within the group, revealed that these promoters are directly activated via the global regulator AdpA, and discovered that small promoter insertion–deletion lesions (indels) differentiate weaker PTM producers from stronger ones. We also revealed an unexpected link between robust PTM expression and griseorhodin pigment coproduction, with weaker S. griseus–clade PTM producers being unable to produce the latter compound. This study highlights promoter indels and biosynthetic interactions as important, genetically encoded factors that impact BGC outputs, providing mechanistic insights that will undoubtedly extend to other Streptomyces BGCs. We highlight comparative metabologenomics as a powerful approach to expose genomic features that differentiate strong, antibiotic producers from weaker ones. This should prove useful for rational discovery efforts and is orthogonal to current engineering and molecular signaling approaches now standard in the field.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2103515118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number31
StatePublished - Aug 3 2021


  • Cryptic metabolism
  • Metabologenomics
  • Regulation
  • Streptomyces griseus
  • Tetramic acid


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