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Rare taxa and dark microbial matter: novel bioactive actinobacteria abound in Atacama Desert soils

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Michael Goodfellow, Dr Imen Nouioui, Dr Roy Sanderson, Professor Alan Bull


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© 2018, Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature. An “in house” taxonomic approach to drug discovery led to the isolation of diverse actinobacteria from hyper-arid, extreme hyper-arid and very high altitude Atacama Desert soils. A high proportion of the isolates were assigned to novel taxa, with many showing activity in standard antimicrobial plug assays. The application of more advanced taxonomic and screening strategies showed that strains classified as novel species of Lentzea and Streptomyces synthesised new specialised metabolites thereby underpinning the premise that the extreme abiotic conditions in the Atacama Desert favour the development of a unique actinobacterial diversity which is the basis of novel chemistry. Complementary metagenomic analyses showed that the soils encompassed an astonishing degree of actinobacterial ‘dark matter’, while rank-abundance analyses showed them to be highly diverse habitats mainly composed of rare taxa that have not been recovered using culture-dependent methods. The implications of these pioneering studies on future bioprospecting campaigns are discussed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Goodfellow M, Nouioui I, Sanderson R, Xie F, Bull AT

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

Year: 2018

Volume: 111

Issue: 8

Pages: 1315-1332

Print publication date: 01/08/2018

Online publication date: 02/05/2018

Acceptance date: 20/04/2018

ISSN (print): 0003-6072

ISSN (electronic): 1572-9699

Publisher: Springer Netherlands


DOI: 10.1007/s10482-018-1088-7