Microbial secondary metabolite discovery is often conducted in pure monocultures. In a natural setting, however, where metabolites are constantly exchanged, biosynthetic precursors are likely provided by symbionts or hosts. In the current work, we report eight novel and architecturally unusual secondary metabolites synthesized by the bacterial symbiont Phaeobacter inhibens from precursors that, in a native context, would be provided by their algal hosts. Three of these were produced at low titres and their structures were determined de novo using the emerging microcrystal electron diffraction method. Some of the new metabolites exhibited potent algaecidal activity suggesting that the bacterial symbiont can convert algal precursors, tryptophan and sinapic acid, into complex cytotoxins. Our results have important implications for the parasitic phase of algal-bacterial symbiotic interactions.
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