Using DNA data, researchers including MARBLES partner Eidegenoessische Technische Hochschule Zuerichethz (ETHZ) have examined seawater to find not only new bacteria species, but also previously unknown natural products!
The ocean is full of all sorts of life, from the world's largest creatures blue whales to microscopic microorganisms or microbes. In addition to their immense numbers, marine microbial communities are phylogenetically and metabolically diverse. Marine microbes are also crucial for ensuring that both the entire ecosystem and climate system work properly. In addition to underexplored microbial groups, the diversity of the marine microbial community has great potential for the discovery of ecologically and biotechnologically relevant enzymes and biochemical compounds. However, studying the marine microbial community to identify genomic pathways for the synthesis of such compounds and assigning them to their respective hosts remains challenging. The biosynthetic potential or production of chemical compounds by microbes in the open ocean remains largely unexplored due to limitations in the analysis of genome-resolved data at the global scale. This study investigated the diversity and novelty of biosynthetic gene clusters (a group of two or more genes found within an organism's DNA that encode similar polypeptides or proteins) in the ocean, revealing approximately 40,000 mostly new biosynthetic gene clusters. This research demonstrates how microbiomics-driven strategies can enable the investigation of previously undescribed enzymes and natural products in underexplored microbial groups and environments.
Paoli, L., Ruscheweyh, H. J., Forneris, C. C., Hubrich, F., Kautsar, S., Bhushan, A., Lotti, A., Clayssen, Q., Salazar, G., Milanese, A., Carlström, C. I., Papadopoulou, C., Gehrig, D., Karasikov, M., Mustafa, H., Larralde, M., Carroll, L. M., Sánchez, P., Zayed, A. A., Cronin, D.R., Acinas, S.G., Bork, P., Bowler, C., Delmont, T.O., Gasol, J.M., Gossert, A.D., Kahles, A., Sullivan, M.B., Wincker, P., Zeller, G., Robinson, S.L., Piel, J. and Sunagawa, S. (2022). Biosynthetic potential of the global ocean microbiome. Nature. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04862-3
Watch the research explainer video: Microbiomics boosts mining of natural products from the