Production of glycine-derived ammonia as a low-cost and long-distance antibiotic strategy by Streptomyces

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Soil-inhabiting streptomycetes are Nature’s medicine makers, producing over half of all known antibiotics and many other bioactive natural products. However, these bacteria also produce many volatile compounds, and research into these molecules and their role in soil ecology is rapidly gaining momentum. Here we show that streptomycetes have the ability to kill bacteria over long distances via air-borne antibiosis. Our research shows that streptomycetes do so by producing surprisingly high amounts of the low-cost volatile antimicrobial ammonia, which travels over long distances and antagonises both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. Glycine is required as precursor to produce ammonia, and inactivation of the glycine cleavage system annihilated air-borne antibiosis. As a resistance strategy, E. coli cells acquired mutations resulting in reduced expression of the porin master regulator OmpR and its cognate kinase EnvZ, which was just enough to allow them to survive. We further show that ammonia enhances the activity of the more costly canonical antibiotics, suggesting that streptomycetes adopt a low-cost strategy to sensitize competitors for antibiosis over longer distances.
Originele taal-2Engels
Pagina's (van-tot)568-583
TijdschriftISME Journal
Volume14
Vroegere onlinedatum2019
DOI's
StatusGepubliceerd - 2020

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