Re-wiring the regulation of the formicamycin biosynthetic gene cluster to enable the development of promising antibacterial compounds.

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The formicamycins are promising antibiotics first identified in Streptomyces formicae KY5, which produces the compounds at low levels. Here, we show that by understanding the regulation of the for biosynthetic gene cluster (BGC), we can rewire the BGC to increase production levels. The for BGC consists of 24 genes expressed on nine transcripts. The MarR regulator ForJ represses expression of seven transcripts encoding the major biosynthetic genes as well as the ForGF two-component system that initiates biosynthesis. We show that overexpression of forGF in a ?forJ background increases formicamycin production 10-fold compared with the wild-type. De-repression, by deleting forJ, also switches on biosynthesis in liquid culture and induces the production of additional, previously unreported formicamycin congeners. Furthermore, combining de-repression with mutations in biosynthetic genes leads to biosynthesis of additional bioactive precursors.