Rethinking 'secondary' metabolism: physiological roles for phenazine antibiotics

Nat Chem Biol. 2006 Feb;2(2):71-8. doi: 10.1038/nchembio764.


Microorganisms exist in the environment as multicellular communities that face the challenge of surviving under nutrient-limited conditions. Chemical communication is an essential part of the way in which these populations coordinate their behavior, and there has been an explosion of understanding in recent years regarding how this is accomplished. Much less, however, is understood about the way these communities sustain their metabolism. Bacteria of the genus Pseudomonas are ubiquitous, and are distinguished by their production of colorful secondary metabolites called phenazines. In this article, we suggest that phenazines, which are produced under conditions of high cell density and nutrient limitation, may be important for the persistence of pseudomonads in the environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Methanosarcina / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phenazines / metabolism*
  • Pseudomonas / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Phenazines
  • Iron