Extensive progress has been made in determining the effects of the microbiome on human physiology and disease, but the underlying molecules and mechanisms governing these effects remain largely unexplored. Here, we combine a new computational algorithm with synthetic biology to access biologically active small molecules encoded directly in human microbiome–derived metagenomic sequencing data. We discover that members of a clinically used class of molecules are widely encoded in the human microbiome and that they exert potent antibacterial activities against neighboring microbes, implying a possible role in niche competition and host defense. Our approach paves the way toward a systematic unveiling of the chemical repertoire encoded by the human microbiome and provides a generalizable platform for discovering molecular mediators of microbiome-host and microbiome-microbiome interactions.
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