Burkholderia thailandensis produces a family of polyketide-peptide molecules called bactobolins, some of which are potent antibiotics. We found that growth of B. thailandensis at 30°C versus that at 37°C resulted in increased production of bactobolins. We purified the three most abundant bactobolins and determined their activities against a battery of bacteria and mouse fibroblasts. Two of the three compounds showed strong activities against both bacteria and fibroblasts. The third analog was much less potent in both assays. These results suggested that the target of bactobolins might be conserved across bacteria and mammalian cells. To learn about the mechanism of bactobolin activity, we isolated four spontaneous bactobolin-resistant Bacillus subtilis mutants. We used genomic sequencing technology to show that each of the four resistant variants had mutations in rplB, which codes for the 50S ribosome-associated L2 protein. Ectopic expression of a mutant plB gene in wild-type B. subtilis conferred bactobolin resistance. Finally, the L2 mutations did not confer resistance to other antibiotics known to interfere with ribosome function. Our data indicate that bactobolins target the L2 protein or a nearby site and that this is not the target of other antibiotics. We presume that the mammalian target of bactobolins involves the eukaryotic homolog of L2 (L8e).
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