Peptidic natural products (PNPs) include many antibiotics and other bioactive compounds. While the recent launch of the Global Natural Products Social (GNPS) molecular networking infrastructure is transforming PNP discovery into a high-throughput technology, PNP identification algorithms are needed to realize the potential of the GNPS project. GNPS relies on the assumption that each connected component of a molecular network (representing related metabolites) illuminates the ‘dark matter of metabolomics’ as long as it contains a known metabolite present in a database. We reveal a surprising diversity of PNPs produced by related bacteria and show that, contrary to the ‘comparative metabolomics’ assumption, two related bacteria are unlikely to produce identical PNPs (even though they are likely to produce similar PNPs). Since this observation undermines the utility of GNPS, we developed a PNP identification tool, VarQuest, that illuminates the connected components in a molecular network even if they do not contain known PNPs and only contain their variants. VarQuest reveals an order of magnitude more PNP variants than all previous PNP discovery efforts and demonstrates that GNPS already contains spectra from 41% of the currently known PNP families. The enormous diversity of PNPs suggests that biosynthetic gene clusters in various microorganisms constantly evolve to generate a unique spectrum of PNP variants that differ from PNPs in other species.
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We thank K. Vyatkina for fruitful discussions and A. Prjibelski for help with manuscript preparation. The work of A.G., A.M., A.S., A.K. and P.A.P. was supported by the Russian Science Foundation (grant 14-50-00069). The work of H.M. and P.A.P. was supported by the US National Institutes of Health (grant 2-P41-GM103484).
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The Journal of Antibiotics (2019)
Nature Communications (2018)