A rapid screening method for the detection of specialised metabolites from bacteria: Induction and suppression of metabolites from Burkholderia species

Gordon Webster, Cerith Jones, Alex J. Mullins, Eshwar Mahenthiralingam

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    Screening microbial cultures for specialised metabolites is essential for the discovery of new biologically active compounds. A novel, cost-effective and rapid screening method is described for extracting specialised metabolites from bacteria grown on agar plates, coupled with HPLC for basic identification of known and potentially novel metabolites. The method allows the screening of culture collections to identify optimal production strains and metabolite induction conditions. The protocol was optimised on two Burkholderia species known to produce the antibiotics, enacyloxin IIa (B. ambifaria) and gladiolin (B. gladioli), respectively; it was then applied to strains of each species to identify high antibiotic producers. B. ambifaria AMMD and B. gladioli BCC0238 produced the highest concentrations of the respective antibiotic under the conditions tested. To induce expression of silent biosynthetic gene clusters, the addition of low concentrations of antibiotics to growth media was evaluated as known elicitors of Burkholderia specialised metabolites. Subinhibitory concentrations of trimethoprim and other clinically therapeutic antibiotics were evaluated and screened against a panel of B. gladioli and B. ambifaria. To enhance rapid strain screening with more antibiotic elicitors, antimicrobial susceptibility testing discs were included within the induction medium. Low concentrations of trimethoprim suppressed the production of specialised metabolites in B. gladioli, including the toxins, toxoflavin and bongkrekic acid. However, the addition of trimethoprim significantly improved enacylocin IIa concentrations in B. ambifaria AMMD. Rifampicin and ceftazidime significantly improved the yield of gladiolin and caryoynencin by B. gladioli BCC0238, respectively, and cepacin increased 2-fold with tobramycin in B. ambifaria BCC0191. Potentially novel metabolites were also induced by subinhibitory concentrations of tobramycin and chloramphenicol in B. ambifaria. In contrast to previous findings that low concentrations of antibiotic elicit Burkholderia metabolite production, we found they acted as both inducers or suppressors dependent on the metabolite and the strains producing them. In conclusion, the screening protocol enabled rapid characterization of Burkholderia metabolites, the identification of suitable producer strains, potentially novel natural products and an understanding of metabolite regulation in the presence of inducing or suppressing conditions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number106057
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Microbiological Methods
    Early online date14 Sept 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


    • Bacteria
    • Specialised metabolites
    • Antibiotics
    • Burkholderia
    • Antibiotic discovery
    • HPLC


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