A secondary metabolite drives intraspecies antagonism in a gut symbiont that is inhibited by cell-wall acetylation

Cell Host Microbe. 2022 Jun 8;30(6):824-835.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2022.03.033. Epub 2022 Apr 19.


The mammalian microbiome encodes numerous secondary metabolite biosynthetic gene clusters; yet, their role in microbe-microbe interactions is unclear. Here, we characterized two polyketide synthase gene clusters (fun and pks) in the gut symbiont Limosilactobacillus reuteri. The pks, but not the fun, cluster encodes antimicrobial activity. Forty-one of 51 L. reuteri strains tested are sensitive to Pks products; this finding was independent of strains' host origin. Sensitivity to Pks was also established in intraspecies competition experiments in gnotobiotic mice. Comparative genome analyses between Pks-resistant and -sensitive strains identified an acyltransferase gene (act) unique to Pks-resistant strains. Subsequent cell-wall analysis of wild-type and act mutant strains showed that Act acetylates cell-wall components, providing resistance to Pks-mediated killing. Additionally, pks mutants lost their competitive advantage, while act mutants lost their Pks resistance in in vivo competition assays. These findings provide insight into how closely related gut symbionts can compete and co-exist in the gastrointestinal tract.

Keywords: Limosilactobacillus reuteri; acetylation; acyltransferase; antimicrobial; biosynthetic gene clusters; gut symbiont; microbial competition; microbial ecology; polyene; polyketide; secondary metabolite.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Germ-Free Life
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Mice
  • Multigene Family*
  • Polyketide Synthases* / genetics
  • Polyketide Synthases* / metabolism


  • Polyketide Synthases