Snakevine and Munumbi Miller

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Science  20 Sep 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5589, pp. 1961
DOI: 10.1126/science.297.5589.1961a

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The munumbicins are a group of peptide antibiotics named by Gary Strobel, the discoverer of taxol, in honor of an Australian aboriginal friend (Science 296, 1597 (2002). The plant was originally selected on the basis of its ethnobotanical uses as a wound dressing, and subsequently munumbicins A to D have been discovered to have a wide spectrum of activity against some cancer cell lines, plant-pathogenic fungi, and Gram-positive bacteria, as well as the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

Castillo et al. now find that the antibiotics are produced by an endophytic Streptomyces species that lives within the tissues of the snakevine, Kennedia nigriscans, and which apparently acts symbiotically to ward off infection by phytopathogens. The munumbicins have a basic structure of Glx, Pro, Thr, and Val roughly in a 1:2:1:3 ratio, with variably Asx and/or Leu, coupled to a pigmented moiety, possibly a macrolide. These compounds hold out some pharmacological interest as potential new antibiotics against Mycobacterium tuberculosis and also as antimalarials. — CA

Microbiology148, 2675 (2002).

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