Chemical analyses of wasp-associated streptomyces bacteria reveal a prolific potential for natural products discovery

PLoS One. 2011 Feb 22;6(2):e16763. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016763.


Identifying new sources for small molecule discovery is necessary to help mitigate the continuous emergence of antibiotic-resistance in pathogenic microbes. Recent studies indicate that one potentially rich source of novel natural products is Actinobacterial symbionts associated with social and solitary Hymenoptera. Here we test this possibility by examining two species of solitary mud dauber wasps, Sceliphron caementarium and Chalybion californicum. We performed enrichment isolations from 33 wasps and obtained more than 200 isolates of Streptomyces Actinobacteria. Chemical analyses of 15 of these isolates identified 11 distinct and structurally diverse secondary metabolites, including a novel polyunsaturated and polyoxygenated macrocyclic lactam, which we name sceliphrolactam. By pairing the 15 Streptomyces strains against a collection of fungi and bacteria, we document their antifungal and antibacterial activity. The prevalence and anti-microbial properties of Actinobacteria associated with these two solitary wasp species suggest the potential role of these Streptomyces as antibiotic-producing symbionts, potentially helping defend their wasp hosts from pathogenic microbes. Finding phylogenetically diverse and chemically prolific Actinobacteria from solitary wasps suggests that insect-associated Actinobacteria can provide a valuable source of novel natural products of pharmaceutical interest.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actinobacteria / chemistry
  • Actinobacteria / genetics
  • Actinobacteria / isolation & purification
  • Actinobacteria / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / analysis
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / isolation & purification
  • Antifungal Agents / analysis
  • Antifungal Agents / isolation & purification
  • Biological Assay / methods
  • Biological Products / analysis
  • Biological Products / isolation & purification*
  • Biological Products / metabolism
  • Drug Discovery / methods*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Models, Biological
  • Phylogeny
  • Small Molecule Libraries / analysis
  • Small Molecule Libraries / chemistry
  • Small Molecule Libraries / isolation & purification*
  • Streptomyces / chemistry*
  • Streptomyces / genetics
  • Streptomyces / isolation & purification
  • Streptomyces / metabolism
  • Symbiosis / physiology
  • Wasps / metabolism
  • Wasps / microbiology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antifungal Agents
  • Biological Products
  • Small Molecule Libraries