Lunaemycins, New Cyclic Hexapeptide Antibiotics from the Cave Moonmilk-Dweller Streptomyces lunaelactis MM109T

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Jan 6;24(2):1114. doi: 10.3390/ijms24021114.


Streptomyces lunaelactis strains have been isolated from moonmilk deposits, which are calcium carbonate speleothems used for centuries in traditional medicine for their antimicrobial properties. Genome mining revealed that these strains are a remarkable example of a Streptomyces species with huge heterogeneity regarding their content in biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) for specialized metabolite production. BGC 28a is one of the cryptic BGCs that is only carried by a subgroup of S. lunaelactis strains for which in silico analysis predicted the production of nonribosomal peptide antibiotics containing the non-proteogenic amino acid piperazic acid (Piz). Comparative metabolomics of culture extracts of S. lunaelactis strains either holding or not holding BGC 28a combined with MS/MS-guided peptidogenomics and 1H/13C NMR allowed us to identify the cyclic hexapeptide with the amino acid sequence (D-Phe)-(L-HO-Ile)-(D-Piz)-(L-Piz)-(D-Piz)-(L-Piz), called lunaemycin A, as the main compound synthesized by BGC 28a. Molecular networking further identified 18 additional lunaemycins, with 14 of them having their structure elucidated by HRMS/MS. Antimicrobial assays demonstrated a significant bactericidal activity of lunaemycins against Gram-positive bacteria, including multi-drug resistant clinical isolates. Our work demonstrates how an accurate in silico analysis of a cryptic BGC can highly facilitate the identification, the structural elucidation, and the bioactivity of its associated specialized metabolites.

Keywords: Anti-MRSA; NRPS; antibiotics; cave microbiology; cryptic metabolites; genome mining; molecular networking; moonmilk; natural compounds; piperazic acid.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / metabolism
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Infective Agents* / metabolism
  • Multigene Family
  • Streptomyces* / genetics
  • Streptomyces* / metabolism
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Infective Agents

Supplementary concepts

  • Streptomyces lunaelactis