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Secondary Metabolism: An Unlimited Foundation for Synthetic Biology

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Secondary metabolism is constituted by the cohort of biochemical pathways that are dispensable for cell growth. In bacteria and filamentous fungi, secondary metabolism is responsible for the production of a wide range of biologically active compounds such as antibiotics, but also for a panoply of other ...

Secondary metabolism is constituted by the cohort of biochemical pathways that are dispensable for cell growth. In bacteria and filamentous fungi, secondary metabolism is responsible for the production of a wide range of biologically active compounds such as antibiotics, but also for a panoply of other products, consequence of their metabolic diversity. Secondary metabolic activities are typically related with the presence of clusters of functionally related genes in the producing microorganisms. Recently, high-throughput genomic analysis techniques have pointed out the existence of cryptic genes in bacterial and fungal genomes, possible related with the production of new metabolites and enzymatic activities. These cryptic clusters are possible expressed only under specific environmental conditions, and most of them remained uncharacterized. Synthetic biology is a branch of the biology that combines techniques from cell biology, molecular biology and biochemistry, to design artificial living systems with specific metabolic properties. Secondary metabolism constitutes and endless source of chemical compounds and enzyme-catalyzed reactions, that can be used by Synthetic Biology as tools and building blocks for the design of new biological systems. Pioneer works in the decade of 1980, showed the possibility of combining genetic information from different microorganisms to produce new metabolites. Today, the availability of advanced genetic techniques such as guided genome editing, together with the next-generation sequencing opens a wide different scenario for the development of a new family of biological systems for the production of secondary metabolites with new and/or improved biological activities.
This Research Topic of Frontiers in Microbiology, intends to compile new trends for the use of genes and enzymatic activities belonging to secondary metabolism as building blocks to construct biological synthetic systems for the production of new or improved metabolites with potential use in environmental applications and human health.


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