Plant pathogenic anaerobic bacteria use aromatic polyketides to access aerobic territory

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Science  06 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6261, pp. 670-674
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac9990

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Protecting against too much of a good thing

The slimy pink rot of potatoes is caused by the bacterium Clostridium puniceum, which cannot grow in the presence of oxygen. These bacteria produce a polyphenolic metabolite known as clostrubin that functions as an antibiotic. Shabuer et al. now show that the bacteria also use clostrubin to protect themselves from the aerobic environment of the potato tuber.

Science, this issue p. 670


Around 25% of vegetable food is lost worldwide because of infectious plant diseases, including microbe-induced decay of harvested crops. In wet seasons and under humid storage conditions, potato tubers are readily infected and decomposed by anaerobic bacteria (Clostridium puniceum). We found that these anaerobic plant pathogens harbor a gene locus (type II polyketide synthase) to produce unusual polyketide metabolites (clostrubins) with dual functions. The clostrubins, which act as antibiotics against other microbial plant pathogens, enable the anaerobic bacteria to survive an oxygen-rich plant environment.

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