On the evolution of natural product biosynthesis

Francisco Barona-Gómez, Marc G Chevrette, Paul A Hoskisson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Natural products are the raw material for drug discovery programmes. Bioactive natural products are used extensively in medicine and agriculture and have found utility as antibiotics, immunosuppressives, anti-cancer drugs and anthelminthics. Remarkably, the natural role and what mechanisms drive evolution of these molecules is relatively poorly understood. The exponential increase in genome and chemical data in recent years, coupled with technical advances in bioinformatics and genetics have enabled progress to be made in understanding the evolution of biosynthetic gene clusters and the products of their enzymatic machinery. Here we discuss the diversity of natural products, incorporating the mechanisms that govern evolution of metabolic pathways and how this can be applied to biosynthetic gene clusters. We build on the nomenclature of natural products in terms of primary, integrated, secondary and specialised metabolism and place this within an ecology-evolutionary-developmental biology framework. This eco-evo-devo framework we believe will help to clarify the nature and use of the term specialised metabolites in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Microbial Physiology
EditorsRobert K. Poole, David J. Kelly
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Number of pages41
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 May 2023

Publication series

NameAdvances in Microbial Physiology
PublisherElsevier Science


  • natural product
  • specialised metabolite
  • secondary metabolite
  • genome
  • evolution
  • antibiotics
  • development
  • ecology
  • Streptomyces


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