Small Spatial Scale Drivers of Secondary Metabolite Biosynthetic Diversity in Environmental Microbiomes

Aileen Ute Geers, Mikael Lenz Strube, Mikkel Bentzon-Tilia*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

To counteract the antibiotic resistance crisis, novel anti-infective agents need to be discovered and brought to market. Microbial secondary metabolites have been important sources of inspiration for small-molecule therapeutics. In the search for novel drug candidates, diverse environmental microbiomes have been surveyed for their secondary metabolite biosynthesis potential, yet little is known about the biosynthetic diversity encoded by divergent microbiomes from different ecosystems, and the environmental parameters driving this diversity. Here, we used targeted amplicon sequencing of adenylation (AD) and ketosynthase (KS) domains along with 16S sequencing to delineate the unique biosynthetic potential of microbiomes from three separate habitats (soil, water, and sediments) exhibiting unique small spatial scale physicochemical gradients. The estimated richness of AD domains was highest in marine sediments with 656 ± 58 operational biosynthetic units (OBUs), while the KS domain richness was highest in soil microbiomes with 388 ± 67 OBUs. Microbiomes with rich and diverse bacterial communities displayed the highest PK potential across all ecosystems, and on a small spatial scale, pH and salinity were significantly, positively correlated to KS domain richness in soil and aquatic systems, respectively. Integrating our findings, we were able to predict the KS domain richness with a RMSE of 31 OBUs and a R2 of 0.91, and by the use of publicly available information on bacterial richness and diversity, we identified grassland biomes as being particularly promising sites for the discovery of novel polyketides. Furthermore, a focus on acidobacterial taxa is likely to be fruitful, as these were responsible for most of the variation in biosynthetic diversity. Overall, our results highlight the importance of sampling diverse environments with high taxonomic diversity in the pursuit for novel secondary metabolites.

IMPORTANCE To counteract the antibiotic resistance crisis, novel anti-infective agents need to be discovered and brought to market. Microbial secondary metabolites have been important sources of inspiration for small-molecule therapeutics. However, the isolation of novel antibiotics is difficult, and the risk of rediscovery is high. With the overarching purpose of identifying promising microbiomes for discovery of novel bioactivity, we mapped out the most significant drivers of biosynthetic diversity across divergent microbiomes. We found the biosynthetic potential to be unique to individual ecosystems, and to depend on bacterial taxonomic diversity. Within systems, and on small spatial scales, pH and salinity correlated positively to the biosynthetic richness of the microbiomes, Acidobacteria representing the taxa most highly associated with biosynthetic diversity. Ultimately, understanding the key drivers of the biosynthesis potential of environmental microbiomes will allow us to focus bioprospecting efforts and facilitate the discovery of novel therapeutics.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00724-22
JournalmSystems
Volume8
Issue number2
Number of pages15
ISSN2379-5077
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Antibiotics
  • Microbiomes
  • Nonribosomal peptides
  • Polyketides
  • Secondary metabolites

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