Current approaches to exploit actinomycetes as a source of novel natural products

J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol. 2011 Mar;38(3):375-89. doi: 10.1007/s10295-010-0882-7. Epub 2010 Oct 8.


For decades, microbial natural products have been one of the major sources of novel drugs for pharmaceutical companies, and today all evidence suggests that novel molecules with potential therapeutic applications are still waiting to be discovered from these natural sources, especially from actinomycetes. Any appropriate exploitation of the chemical diversity of these microbial sources relies on proper understanding of their biological diversity and other related key factors that maximize the possibility of successful identification of novel molecules. Without doubt, the discovery of platensimycin has shown that microbial natural products can continue to deliver novel scaffolds if appropriate tools are put in place to reveal them in a cost-effective manner. Whereas today innovative technologies involving exploitation of uncultivated environmental diversity, together with chemical biology and in silico approaches, are seeing rapid development in natural products research, maximization of the chances of exploiting chemical diversity from microbial collections is still essential for novel drug discovery. This work provides an overview of the integrated approaches developed at the former Basic Research Center of Merck Sharp and Dohme in Spain to exploit the diversity and biosynthetic potential of actinomycetes, and includes some examples of those that were successfully applied to the discovery of novel antibiotics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actinobacteria / chemistry*
  • Adamantane / isolation & purification
  • Aminobenzoates / isolation & purification
  • Anilides / isolation & purification
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / isolation & purification
  • Biodiversity
  • Biological Products / chemistry
  • Biological Products / isolation & purification*
  • Drug Discovery / methods*
  • Drug Industry
  • Fermentation
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Spain


  • Aminobenzoates
  • Anilides
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Biological Products
  • Adamantane
  • platensimycin