Recent advances in understanding Streptomyces.

About 2,500 papers dated 2014-2016 were recovered by searching the PubMed database for Streptomyces, which are the richest known source of antibiotics. This review integrates around 100 of these papers in sections dealing with evolution, ecology, pathogenicity, growth and development, stress responses and secondary metabolism, gene expression, and technical advances. Genomic approaches have greatly accelerated progress. For example, it has been definitively shown that interspecies recombination of conserved genes has occurred during evolution, in addition to exchanges of some of the tens of thousands of non-conserved accessory genes. The closeness of the association of Streptomyces with plants, fungi, and insects has become clear and is reflected in the importance of regulators of cellulose and chitin utilisation in overall Streptomyces biology. Interestingly, endogenous cellulose-like glycans are also proving important in hyphal growth and in the clumping that affects industrial fermentations. Nucleotide secondary messengers, including cyclic di-GMP, have been shown to provide key input into developmental processes such as germination and reproductive growth, while late morphological changes during sporulation involve control by phosphorylation. The discovery that nitric oxide is produced endogenously puts a new face on speculative models in which regulatory Wbl proteins (peculiar to actinobacteria) respond to nitric oxide produced in stressful physiological transitions. Some dramatic insights have come from a new model system for Streptomyces developmental biology, Streptomyces venezuelae, including molecular evidence of very close interplay in each of two pairs of regulatory proteins. An extra dimension has been added to the many complexities of the regulation of secondary metabolism by findings of regulatory crosstalk within and between pathways, and even between species, mediated by end products. Among many outcomes from the application of chromosome immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) analysis and other methods based on “next-generation sequencing” has been the finding that 21% of Streptomyces mRNA species lack leader sequences and conventional ribosome binding sites. Further technical advances now emerging should lead to continued acceleration of knowledge, and more effective exploitation, of these astonishing and critically important organisms.

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