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Secondary metabolite production and the safety of industrially important members of the Bacillus subtilis group

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Colin Harwood, Dr Susanne Pohl



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Members of the “B. subtilis group” include some of the most commercially important bacteria, used for the production of a wide range of industrial enzymes and fine biochemicals. Increasingly, group members have been developed for use as animal feed enhancers and antifungal biocontrol agents. The group have long been recognized to produce a range of secondary metabolites and, despite their long history of safe usage, this has resulted in an increased focus on their safety. Traditional methods used to detect the production of secondary metabolites and other potentially harmful compounds have relied on phenotypic tests. Such approaches are time-consuming and, in some cases, lack specificity. Nowadays, accessibility to genome data and associated bioinformatical tools provides a powerful means for identifying gene clusters associated with the synthesis of secondary metabolites. This review focuses primarily on well-characterised strains of B. subtilis and B. licheniformis and their synthesis of non-ribosomally synthesised peptides (NRP) and polyketides (PK). Where known, the activities and toxicities of their secondary metabolites are discussed, together with the limitations of assays currently used to assess their toxicity. Finally, the regulatory framework under which such strains are authorized for use in the production of food and feed enzymes is also reviewed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Harwood CR, Bouillon JM, Pohl S, Arnau J

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: FEMS Microbiology Reviews

Year: 2018

Volume: 42

Issue: 6

Pages: 721-738

Print publication date: 01/11/2018

Online publication date: 19/07/2018

Acceptance date: 17/07/2018

ISSN (print): 0168-6445

ISSN (electronic): 1574-6976

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/femsre/fuy028