Species-specific secondary metabolite production in marine actinomycetes of the genus Salinispora
Jensen PR, Williams PG, Oh DC, Zeigler L, Fenical W
Here we report associations between secondary metabolite production and phylogenetically distinct but closely related marine actinomycete species belonging to the genus Salinispora. The pattern emerged in a study that included global collection sites, and it indicates that secondary metabolite production can be a species-specific, phenotypic trait associated with broadly distributed bacterial populations. Associations between actinomycete phylotype and chemotype revealed an effective, diversity-based approach to natural product discovery that contradicts the conventional wisdom that secondary metabolite production is strain specific. The structural diversity of the metabolites observed, coupled with gene probing and phylogenetic analyses, implicates lateral gene transfer as a source of the biosynthetic genes responsible for compound production. These results conform to a model of selection-driven pathway fixation occurring subsequent to gene acquisition and provide a rare example in which demonstrable physiological traits have been correlated to the fine-scale phylogenetic architecture of an environmental bacterial community.