Phytoplankton trigger the production of cryptic metabolites in the marine actinobacteria Salinispora tropica
Bacteria from the Actinomycete family are a remarkable source of natural products with pharmaceutical potential. The discovery of novel molecules from these organisms is, however, hindered because most of the biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) encoding these secondary metabolites are cryptic or silent and are referred to as orphan BGCs. While co-culture has proven to be a promising approach to unlock the biosynthetic potential of many microorganisms by activating the expression of these orphan
... n of these orphan BGCs, it still remains an underexplored technique. The marine actinobacteria Salinispora tropica, for instance, produces valuable compounds such as the anti-cancer molecule salinosporamide A but half of its putative BGCs are still orphan. Although previous studies have looked into using marine heterotrophs to induce orphan BGCs in Salinispora, the potential impact of co-culturing marine phototrophs with Salinispora has yet to be investigated. Following the observation of clear antimicrobial phenotype of the actinobacterium on a range of phytoplanktonic organisms, we here report the discovery of novel cryptic secondary metabolites produced by S. tropica in response to its co-culture with photosynthetic primary producers. An approach combining metabolomics and proteomics revealed that the photosynthate released by phytoplankton influences the biosynthetic capacities of S. tropica with both production of new molecules and the activation of orphan BGCs. Our work pioneers the use of phototrophs as a promising strategy to accelerate the discovery of novel natural products from actinobacteria.