Global analysis of biosynthetic gene clusters reveals conserved and unique natural products in entomopathogenic nematode-symbiotic bacteria

Nat Chem. 2022 Jun;14(6):701-712. doi: 10.1038/s41557-022-00923-2. Epub 2022 Apr 25.


Microorganisms contribute to the biology and physiology of eukaryotic hosts and affect other organisms through natural products. Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus (XP) living in mutualistic symbiosis with entomopathogenic nematodes generate natural products to mediate bacteria-nematode-insect interactions. However, a lack of systematic analysis of the XP biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) has limited the understanding of how natural products affect interactions between the organisms. Here we combine pangenome and sequence similarity networks to analyse BGCs from 45 XP strains that cover all sequenced strains in our collection and represent almost all XP taxonomy. The identified 1,000 BGCs belong to 176 families. The most conserved families are denoted by 11 BGC classes. We homologously (over)express the ubiquitous and unique BGCs and identify compounds featuring unusual architectures. The bioactivity evaluation demonstrates that the prevalent compounds are eukaryotic proteasome inhibitors, virulence factors against insects, metallophores and insect immunosuppressants. These findings explain the functional basis of bacterial natural products in this tripartite relationship.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Products*
  • Humans
  • Insecta / genetics
  • Insecta / microbiology
  • Multigene Family
  • Nematoda* / genetics
  • Nematoda* / microbiology
  • Photorhabdus* / genetics
  • Symbiosis / genetics
  • Xenorhabdus* / genetics


  • Biological Products