Challenges—Harnessing the potential of chemical defenses from antimicrobial activities


  Resistance to the drugs used in the treatment of many infectious diseases is increasing, while microbial infections are being found to be responsible for more life-threatening diseases than previously thought. Despite a large investment in the invention and application of high-throughput screening techniques involving miniaturization and automation, and a diverse array of strategies for designing and constructing various chemical libraries, relatively few new drugs have resulted. Natural products, however, have been a major source of drugs for centuries. Since some of them are produced by organisms as a result of selection in favor of improved defense against competing deleterious microorganisms, in principle they would be less likely to incur resistance. Furthermore, the production of those defensive secondary metabolites is inducible because their original function is a response to environmental challenges. Moreover, symbioses, co-habitation associations between two or more different species of organisms, are universal in nature, and the production of secondary metabolites by symbiotic microbes may be an important adaptation allowing microbes to affect their hosts. Therefore, co-culture strategies, using combinations of plant cell-pathogenic microbes, plant cell-endophytes (or symbionts), and symbiont-pathogenic microbes, based on the principles of chemical defense and the known mechanisms of organism interactions, may be an efficient general approach in the search for new anti-microbial drugs. BioEssays 26:808-813, 2004. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


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