A Silent Operon of Photorhabdus luminescens Encodes a Prodrug Mimic of GTP

Negar Shahsavari, Boyuan Wang, Yu Imai, Miho Mori, Sangkeun Son, Libang Liang, Nils Böhringer, Sylvie Manuse, Michael F. Gates, Madeleine Morrissette, Rachel Corsetti, Josh L. Espinoza, Chris L. Dupont, Michael T. Laub, Kim Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


With the overmining of actinomycetes for compounds acting against Gram-negative pathogens, recent efforts to discover novel antibiotics have been focused on other groups of bacteria. Teixobactin, the first antibiotic without detectable resistance that binds lipid II, comes from an uncultured Eleftheria terra, a betaproteobacterium; odilorhabdins, from Xenorhabdus, are broad-spectrum inhibitors of protein synthesis, and darobactins from Photorhabdus target BamA, the essential chaperone of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus are symbionts of the nematode gut microbiome and attractive producers of secondary metabolites. Only small portions of their biosynthetic gene clusters (BGC) are expressed in vitro. To access their silent operons, we first separated extracts from a small library of isolates into fractions, resulting in 200-fold concentrated material, and then screened them for antimicrobial activity. This resulted in a hit with selective activity against Escherichia coli, which we identified as a novel natural product antibiotic, 39-amino 39-deoxyguanosine (ADG). Mutants resistant to ADG mapped to gsk and gmk, kinases of guanosine. Biochemical analysis shows that ADG is a prodrug that is converted into an active ADG triphosphate (ADG-TP), a mimic of GTP. ADG incorporates into a growing RNA chain, interrupting transcription, and inhibits cell division, apparently by interfering with the GTPase activity of FtsZ. Gsk of the purine salvage pathway, which is the first kinase in the sequential phosphorylation of ADG, is restricted to E. coli and closely related species, explaining the selectivity of the compound. There are probably numerous targets of ADG-TP among GTP-dependent proteins. The discovery of ADG expands our knowledge of prodrugs, which are rare among natural compounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • KEYWORDS antibiotic resistance
  • natural product
  • nucleoside analog

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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