Many representatives of the order Actinomycetales are prolific producers of thousands of biologically active secondary metabolites. Actinomycetes from terrestrial sources have been studied and screened since the 1950s, yielding many important anti-infective and anti-cancer drugs. However, frequent re-discovery of the same compounds in terrestrial actinomycetes have made them less attractive for screening programs in the recent years. At the same time, actinomycetes isolated from the marine environment currently receive considerable attention due to the structural diversity and unique biological activities of their secondary metabolites. This review highlights achievements and challenges in the isolation of marine actinomycetes, some examples of bioactive metabolites identified by conventional screening, and presents new developments in the field of genome mining and heterologous expression of biosynthetic gene clusters leading to the discovery of novel compounds.
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