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International Microbiology

versión impresa ISSN 1139-6709


LIRAS, Paloma  y  MARTIN, Juan F.. Gene clusters for b-lactam antibiotics and control of their expression: why have clusters evolved, and from where did they originate?. INT. MICROBIOL. [online]. 2006, vol.9, n.1, pp.09-19. ISSN 1139-6709.

While b-lactam compounds were discovered in filamentous fungi, actinomycetes and gram-negative bacteria are also known to produce different types of b-lactams. All b-lactam compounds contain a four-membered b-lactam ring. The structure of their second ring allows these compounds to be classified into penicillins, cephalosporins, clavams, carbapenens or monobactams. Most b-lactams inhibits bacterial cell wall biosynthesis but others behave as b-lactamase inhibitors (e.g., clavulanic acid) and even as antifungal agents (e.g., some clavams). Due to the nature of the second ring in b-lactam molecules, the precursors and biosynthetic pathways of clavams, carbapenems and monobactams differ from those of penicillins and cephalosporins. These last two groups, including cephamycins and cephabacins, are formed from three precursor amino acids that are linked into the a-aminoadipyl-L-cysteinyl-D-valine tripeptide. The first two steps of their biosynthetic pathways are common. The intermediates of these pathways, the characteristics of the enzymes involved, the lack of introns in the genes and bioinformatic analysis suggest that all of them should have evolved from an ancestral gene cluster of bacterial origin, which was surely transferred horizontally in the soil from producer to non-producer microorganisms. The receptor strains acquired fragments of the original bacterial cluster and occasionally inserted new genes into the clusters, which once modified, acquired new functions and gave rise to the final compounds that we know. When the order of genes in the Streptomyces genome is analyzed, the antibiotic gene clusters are highlighted as gene islands in the genome. Nonetheless, the assemblage of the ancestral b-lactam gene cluster remains a matter of speculation.

Palabras clave : b-lactam antibiotics; antibiotic biosynthesis; metabolic regulation; gene clusters; microbial evolution.

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