Endophytes as sources of antibiotics

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Abstract

Graphical abstract

Endophytes are microorganisms that inhabit the inner tissues of plants. The metabolites produced by endophytes have antibiotic activity against other bacteria, fungi or protozoa.

Until a viable alternative can be accessible, the emergence of resistance to antimicrobials requires the constant development of new antibiotics. Recent scientific efforts have been aimed at the bioprospecting of microorganisms’ secondary metabolites, with special emphasis on the search for antimicrobial natural products derived from endophytes. Endophytes are microorganisms that inhabit the internal tissues of plants without causing apparent harm to the plant. The present review article compiles recent (2006–2016) literature to provide an update on endophyte research aimed at finding metabolites with antibiotic activities. We have included exclusively information on endophytes that produce metabolites capable of inhibiting the growth of bacterial, fungal and protozoan pathogens of humans, animals and plants. Where available, the identified metabolites have been listed. In this review, we have also compiled a list of the bacterial and fungal phyla that have been isolated as endophytes as well as the plant families from which the endophytes were isolated. The majority of endophytes that produce antibiotic metabolites belong to either phylum Ascomycota (kingdom Fungi) or to phylum Actinobacteria (superkingdom Bacteria). Endophytes that produce antibiotic metabolites were predominant, but certainly not exclusively, from the plant families Fabaceae, Lamiaceae, Asteraceae and Araceae, suggesting that endophytes that produce antimicrobial metabolites are not restricted to a reduced number of plant families. The locations where plants (and inhabiting endophytes) were collected from, according to the literature, have been mapped, showing that endophytes that produce bioactive compounds have been collected globally.

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