The improvement of genome sequencing techniques has brought to light the biosynthetic potential of actinomycetes due to the large number of gene clusters they present compared to the number of known compounds. Genome mining is a recent strategy in the search for novel bioactive compounds, which involves the analysis of sequenced genomes to identify uncharacterized natural product biosynthetic gene clusters, many of which are cryptic or silent under laboratory conditions, and to develop experimental approaches to identify their products. Owing to the importance of halogenation in terms of structural diversity, bioavailability, and bioactivity, searching for new halogenated bioactive compounds has become an interesting issue in the field of natural product discovery. Following this purpose, a screening for halogenase coding genes was performed on 12 Streptomyces strains isolated from fungus-growing ants of the Attini tribe. Using the bioinformatics tools antiSMASH and BLAST, six halogenase coding genes were identified. Some of these genes were located within biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs), which were studied by construction of several mutants for the identification of the putative halogenated compounds produced. The comparison of the metabolite production profile of wild-type strains and their corresponding mutants by ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography-UV and high-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry allowed us the identification of a novel family of halogenated compounds in Streptomyces sp. strain CS147, designated colibrimycins. IMPORTANCE Genome mining has proven its usefulness in the search for novel bioactive compounds produced by microorganisms, and halogenases comprise an interesting starting point. In this work, we have identified a new halogenase coding gene that led to the discovery of novel lipopetide nonribosomal peptide synthetase/polyketide synthase (NRPS/PKS)-derived natural products, the colibrimycins, produced by Streptomyces sp. strain CS147, isolated from the Attini ant niche. Some colibrimycins display an unusual α-ketoamide moiety in the peptide structure. Although its biosynthetic origin remains unknown, its presence might be related to a hypothetical inhibition of virus proteases, and, together with the presence of the halogenase, it represents a feature to be incorporated in the arsenal of structural modifications available for combinatorial biosynthesis.
Keywords: biosynthetic gene clusters; halogenases; lipopeptides; nonribosomal peptides; polyketides; α-ketoamide.