Assembly and clustering of natural antibiotics guides target identification

Chad W. Johnston, Michael A. Skinnider, Chris A. Dejong, Philip N. Rees, Gregory M. Chen, Chelsea G. Walker, Shawn French, Eric D. Brown, Janos Berdy, Dennis Y. Liu, Nathan A. Magarvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Antibiotics are essential for numerous medical procedures, including the treatment of bacterial infections, but their widespread use has led to the accumulation of resistance, prompting calls for the discovery of antibacterial agents with new targets. A majority of clinically approved antibacterial scaffolds are derived from microbial natural products, but these valuable molecules are not well annotated or organized, limiting the efficacy of modern informatic analyses. Here, we provide a comprehensive resource defining the targets, chemical origins and families of the natural antibacterial collective through a retrobiosynthetic algorithm. From this we also detail the directed mining of biosynthetic scaffolds and resistance determinants to reveal structures with a high likelihood of having previously unknown modes of action. Implementing this pipeline led to investigations of the telomycin family of natural products from Streptomyces canus, revealing that these bactericidal molecules possess a new antibacterial mode of action dependent on the bacterial phospholipid cardiolipin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-239
Number of pages7
JournalNature Chemical Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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