Advertisement

Are antibiotics naturally antibiotics?

  • Julian DaviesEmail author
Review

Abstract

Antibiotics have been used for more than 50 years and are the cornerstone of infectious disease treatment; in addition, these low-molecular-weight bioactive compounds have been applied to many other therapeutic purposes. However, there is almost no information on the evolutionary biology or ecology of naturally occurring low-molecular-weight compounds. The large number of different structural types and the extremely broad range of biological activities of organic molecules produced by microbes raise many questions concerning their roles in nature. Recent evidence for the enormous complexity of microbial populations in the environment favors the notion that the principal roles of small molecules in microbial ecology are cell–cell communication and not antibiosis.

Keywords

Hormesis Natural products Sociomicrobiology Transcription modulation 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I wish to thank the students in my UBC laboratory and the many colleagues with whom I have discussed the topics in this paper; some are believers. Also, I recognize the generosity of pharmaceutical companies who have provided compounds for unrestricted use in my laboratory. The experimental studies described were generously supported by the Canadian Bacterial Diseases Network, the Canadian Institute for Health Research, and the National Science and Engineering Research Council (Canada).

References

  1. 1.
    Baath E (1998) Growth rates of bacterial communities in soils at varying pH; a comparison of the thymidine and leucine incorporation techniques. Microb Ecol 36:316–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bauer WD, Mathesius U (2004) Plant responses to bacterial quorum sensing signals. Curr Opin Plant Biol 7:429–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bentley SD, Chater KF, Cerdeno-Tarraga AM, Challis GL, Thomson NR, James KD, Harris DE, Quail MA, Kieser H, Harper D, Bateman A, Brown S, Chandra G, Chen CW, Collins M, Cronin A, Fraser A, Goble A, Hidalgo J, Hornsby T, Howarth S, Huang CH, Kieser T, Larke L, Murphy L, Oliver K, O’Neil S, Rabbinowitsch E, Rajandream MA, Rutherford K, Rutter S, Seeger K, Saunders D, Sharp S, Squares R, Squares S, Taylor K, Warren T, Wietzorrek A, Woodward J, Barrell BG, Parkhill J, Hopwood DA (2002) Complete sequence of the model actinomycete Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2). Nature 417:141–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bergsma-Vlami M, Prins ME, Raaijmakers JM (2005) Influence of plant species on population dynamics, genotypic diversity and antibiotic production in the rhizosphere by indigenous Pseudomonas spp. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 52:59–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Calabrese EJ, Blain R (2005) The occurrence of hormetic dose responses in the toxicological literature, the hormesis database: an overview. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 202:289–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Chadwick DJ, Whelan J (eds) (1992) Secondary metabolites, their function and evolution. Ciba Foundation Symposium 171. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Davies J (2004) Actinomycetes and beyond. Microbiol Aust 25:8–10Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Demain AL, Davies JE (eds) (1999) Manual of industrial microbiology and biotechnology. ASM Press, Washington, DC, pp 21–95, 103–113Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Emmert EAB, Klimowicz AK, Thomas MG, Handelsman J (2004) Genetics of zwittermicin A production by Bacillus cereus. Appl Environ Microbiol 70:104–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Goh EB, Yim G, Tsui W, McClure J, Surette MG, Davies J (2002). Transcriptional modulation of bacterial gene expression by subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 99:17025–17030CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Madigan MT, Martinko JM, Parker J (1997) Brock biology of microorganisms, 8th edn. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Maplestone RA, Stone MJ, Williams DH (1992) The evolutionary role of secondary metabolites—a review. Gene 115:151–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    McFall-Ngai MJ, Henderson B, Ruby EG (eds) (2005) The influence of cooperative bacteria on animal host biology. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    McPhee JB, Hancock RE (2005) Function and therapeutic potential of host defence peptides. J Pept Sci 11:677–687CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Mueller UG, Gerardo N (2002) Fungus-farming insects: multiple origins and diverse evolutionary histories. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 99:15247–15249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Parsek MR, Greenberg EP (2005) Sociomicrobiology: the connections between quorum sensing and biofilms. Trends Microbiol 13:27–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Shiner EK, Rumbaugh KP, Williams SC (2005) Interkingdom signaling: deciphering the language of acyl homoserine lactones. FEMS Microbiol Rev 29:935–947CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Tsui WH, Yim G, Wang HH, McClure JE, Surette MG, Davies J (2004) Dual effects of MLS antibiotics: transcriptional modulation and interactions on the ribosome. Chem Biol 11:1307–1316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Ueda K, Kawai S, Ogawa H, Kiyama H, Kubota T, Kawanobe H, Beppu T (2000) Wide distribution of interspecific stimulatory events on antibiotic production and sporulation among Streptomyces species. J Antibiot 53:979–982Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Visick KL, Fuqua C (2005) Decoding microbial chatter: cell–cell communication in bacteria. J Bacteriol 187:5507–5519CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Waksman SA (1961) The role of antibiotics in nature. In: Perspectives in biology and medicine, vol IV, pp 271–286Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Industrial Microbiology 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Microbiology and ImmunologyLife Sciences InstituteVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations