Actinomycetes: still a source of novel antibiotics

Nat Prod Rep. 2017 Oct 18;34(10):1203-1232. doi: 10.1039/c7np00026j.


Covering: 2006 to 2017Actinomycetes have been, for decades, one of the most important sources for the discovery of new antibiotics with an important number of drugs and analogs successfully introduced in the market and still used today in clinical practice. The intensive antibacterial discovery effort that generated the large number of highly potent broad-spectrum antibiotics, has seen a dramatic decline in the large pharma industry in the last two decades resulting in a lack of new classes of antibiotics with novel mechanisms of action reaching the clinic. Whereas the decline in the number of new chemical scaffolds and the rediscovery problem of old known molecules has become a hurdle for industrial natural products discovery programs, new actinomycetes compounds and leads have continued to be discovered and developed to the preclinical stages. Actinomycetes are still one of the most important sources of chemical diversity and a reservoir to mine for novel structures that is requiring the integration of diverse disciplines. These can range from novel strategies to isolate species previously not cultivated, innovative whole cell screening approaches and on-site analytical detection and dereplication tools for novel compounds, to in silico biosynthetic predictions from whole gene sequences and novel engineered heterologous expression, that have inspired the isolation of new NPs and shown their potential application in the discovery of novel antibiotics. This review will address the discovery of antibiotics from actinomycetes from two different perspectives including: (1) an update of the most important antibiotics that have only reached the clinical development in the recent years despite their early discovery, and (2) an overview of the most recent classes of antibiotics described from 2006 to 2017 in the framework of the different strategies employed to untap novel compounds previously overlooked with traditional approaches.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actinobacteria* / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / isolation & purification
  • Biological Products / chemistry*
  • Biological Products / isolation & purification
  • Drug Discovery
  • Molecular Structure
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Biological Products