Bacterial polyketides are highly biologically active molecules that are frequently used as drugs, particularly as antibiotics and anticancer agents, thus the discovery of new polyketides is of major interest. Since the 1980s discovery of polyketides has slowed dramatically due in large part to the repeated rediscovery of known compounds. While recent scientific and technical advances have improved our ability to discover new polyketides, one key area has been under addressed, namely the distribution of polyketide-producing bacteria in the environment. Identifying environments where producing bacteria are abundant and diverse should improve our ability to discover (bioprospect) new polyketides. This review summarizes for the bioprospector the state-of-the-field in terrestrial microbial ecology. It provides insight into the scientific and technical challenges limiting the application of microbial ecology discoveries for bioprospecting and summarizes key developments in the field that will enable more effective bioprospecting. The major recent efforts by researchers to sample new environments for polyketide discovery is also reviewed and key emerging environments such as insect associated bacteria, desert soils, disease suppressive soils, and caves are highlighted. Finally strategies for taking and characterizing terrestrial samples to help maximize discovery efforts are proposed and the inclusion of non-actinomycetal bacteria in any terrestrial discovery strategy is recommended.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited