Rare actinomycetes are prolific in the marine environment; however, knowledge about their diversity, distribution and biochemistry is limited. Marine rare actinomycetes represent a rather untapped source of chemically diverse secondary metabolites and novel bioactive compounds. In this review, we aim to summarize the present knowledge on the isolation, diversity, distribution and natural product discovery of marine rare actinomycetes reported from mid-2013 to 2017. A total of 97 new species, representing 9 novel genera and belonging to 27 families of marine rare actinomycetes have been reported, with the highest numbers of novel isolates from the families Pseudonocardiaceae, Demequinaceae, Micromonosporaceae and Nocardioidaceae. Additionally, this study reviewed 167 new bioactive compounds produced by 58 different rare actinomycete species representing 24 genera. Most of the compounds produced by the marine rare actinomycetes present antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, anticancer or antimalarial activities. The highest numbers of natural products were derived from the genera Nocardiopsis
. Members of the genus Micromonospora
were revealed to be the richest source of chemically diverse and unique bioactive natural products.
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