Scientific article: Evaluating the Distribution of Bacterial Natural Product Biosynthetic Genes across Lake Huron Sediment

Environmental microorganisms continue to serve as a major source of bioactive natural products (NPs) and as an inspiration for many other scaffolds in the toolbox of modern medicine. Nearly all microbial NP-inspired therapies can be traced to field expeditions to collect samples from the environment. Despite the importance of these expeditions in the search for new drugs, few studies have attempted to document the extent to which NPs or their corresponding production genes are distributed within a given environment. To gain insights into this, the geographic occurrence of NP ketosynthase (KS) and adenylation (A) domains was documented across 53 and 58 surface sediment samples, respectively, covering 59,590 square kilometers of Lake Huron. Overall, no discernible NP geographic distribution patterns were observed for 90,528 NP classes of nonribosomal peptides and polyketides detected in the survey. While each sampling location harbored a similar number of A domain operational biosynthetic units (OBUs), a limited overlap of OBU type was observed, suggesting that at the sequencing depth used in this study, no single location served as a NP “hotspot”. These data support the hypothesis that there is ample variation in NP occurrence between sampling sites and suggest that extensive sample collection efforts are required to fully capture the functional chemical diversity of sediment microbial communities on a regional scale.

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