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Critter Chemistry

October 14, 2002

Symbiotic Bacteria Make Drug Candidate in Beetles

The compound pederin, isolated from Paederus beetles, is actually produced by bacteria in the beetles, according to a new study. Jörn Piel of Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, has shown that genes for pederin biosynthesis cloned from DNA obtained from pederin-producing beetles are not from the beetle genome but from one that very closely resembles that of Pseudomonas aeruginosa [Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, published online,]. He concludes that symbiotic bacteria very closely related to P. aeruginosa are making pederin, which the beetles use to ward off predators. Pederin is a potent antitumor compound, and similar antitumor compounds have been isolated from marine sponges. Researchers have suspected that many bioactive compounds isolated from invertebrates are actually biosynthesized by symbiotic bacteria. Until this study, no unambiguous proof had been offered for the bacterial origin of a bioactive compound isolated from an invertebrate, Piel says.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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