Streptomyces is the most important bacterial genus for bioactive compound production. These soil bacteria are characterized by a complex differentiation cycle. Streptomyces is extremely important in biotechnology, producing approximately two thirds of all antibiotics, as well as many compounds of medical and agricultural interest. Drug discovery from streptomycetes became challenging once the most common compounds were discovered, and the system was basically abandoned by industry. Simultaneously, antibiotic resistance is increasing dramatically, and new antibiotics are required. Screening from nature is being resumed (exploring new environments, looking for elicitors, metagenome, etc.). Secondary metabolism is conditioned by differentiation; although the relationship between both has long remained elusive, differentiation as a trigger for antibiotic production remains basically unexplored. Most cultures used in screening campaigns for new bioactive molecules have been performed empirically, and workflow was extremely productive during the so-called golden age of antibiotics; however, currently there is a bottleneck. Streptomyces is still the most important natural source of antibiotics, and it also harbors many cryptic secondary metabolite pathways not expressed under laboratory conditions. In this chapter, we review strategies based on differentiation, one of the keys improving secondary metabolite production and activating cryptic pathways to face the challenges of drug discovery.
Part of the book: Antimicrobials, Antibiotic Resistance, Antibiofilm Strategies and Activity Methods