Nature 506(7486) , 58-62 (Feb 6 2014)
Cultivated bacteria such as actinomycetes are a highly useful source of biomedically important natural products. However, such ‘talented’ producers represent only a minute fraction of the entire, mostly uncultivated, prokaryotic diversity. The uncultured majority is generally perceived as a large, untapped resource of new drug candidates, but so far it is unknown whether taxa containing talented bacteria indeed exist. Here we report the single-cell- and metagenomics-based discovery of such producers. Two phylotypes of the candidate genus ‘Entotheonella’ with genomes of greater than 9 megabases and multiple, distinct biosynthetic gene clusters co-inhabit the chemically and microbially rich marine sponge Theonella swinhoei. Almost all bioactive polyketides and peptides known from this animal were attributed to a single phylotype. ‘Entotheonella’ spp. are widely distributed in sponges and belong to an environmental taxon proposed here as candidate phylum ‘Tectomicrobia’. The pronounced bioactivities and chemical uniqueness of ‘Entotheonella’ compounds provide significant opportunities for ecological studies and drug discovery.