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. 2015 Jan 20;112(3):857-62.
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1422108112. Epub 2014 Dec 22.

Terpene Synthases Are Widely Distributed in Bacteria

Free PMC article

Terpene Synthases Are Widely Distributed in Bacteria

Yuuki Yamada et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. .
Free PMC article


Odoriferous terpene metabolites of bacterial origin have been known for many years. In genome-sequenced Streptomycetaceae microorganisms, the vast majority produces the degraded sesquiterpene alcohol geosmin. Two minor groups of bacteria do not produce geosmin, with one of these groups instead producing other sesquiterpene alcohols, whereas members of the remaining group do not produce any detectable terpenoid metabolites. Because bacterial terpene synthases typically show no significant overall sequence similarity to any other known fungal or plant terpene synthases and usually exhibit relatively low levels of mutual sequence similarity with other bacterial synthases, simple correlation of protein sequence data with the structure of the cyclized terpene product has been precluded. We have previously described a powerful search method based on the use of hidden Markov models (HMMs) and protein families database (Pfam) search that has allowed the discovery of monoterpene synthases of bacterial origin. Using an enhanced set of HMM parameters generated using a training set of 140 previously identified bacterial terpene synthase sequences, a Pfam search of 8,759,463 predicted bacterial proteins from public databases and in-house draft genome data has now revealed 262 presumptive terpene synthases. The biochemical function of a considerable number of these presumptive terpene synthase genes could be determined by expression in a specially engineered heterologous Streptomyces host and spectroscopic identification of the resulting terpene products. In addition to a wide variety of terpenes that had been previously reported from fungal or plant sources, we have isolated and determined the complete structures of 13 previously unidentified cyclic sesquiterpenes and diterpenes.

Keywords: bacteria; heterologous expression; terpene synthase.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
The structures of the major known terpenes produced by bacteria.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Phylogenetic analysis of presumptive terpene synthases from bacterial databases. Monoterpene, sesquiterpene, and diterpene synthases are indicated in green-, blue-, and red-colored characters, respectively. The biochemical functions of terpene synthases written in bold and underlined were confirmed by these studies and published data, and they were found from gram-negative bacteria. The blue, orange, and green zones indicate geosmin, epi-isozizaene, and 2-methylisoborneol synthases, respectively. Locus tags or accession numbers are described in SI Materials and Methods.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
The structures of newly identified sesquiterpenes and diterpenes produced by heterologous expression of genes encoding terpene synthases derived from Streptomyces microorganisms in engineered S. avermitilis SUKA22.

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