Bacterial hormones, such as the iconic gamma-butyrolactone A-factor, are essential signaling molecules that regulate diverse physiological processes, including specialized metabolism. These low molecular weight compounds are common in Streptomyces species and display species-specific structural differences. Recently, unusual gamma-butyrolactone natural products called salinipostins were isolated from the marine actinomycete genus Salinispora based on their antimalarial properties. As the salinipostins possess a rare phosphotriester motif of unknown biosynthetic origin, we set out to explore its construction by the widely conserved 9-gene spt operon in Salinispora species. We show through a series of in vivo and in vitro studies that the spt gene cluster dually encodes the salinipostins and newly identified natural A-factor-like gamma-butyrolactones (Sal-GBLs). Remarkably, homologous biosynthetic gene clusters are widely distributed among many actinomycete genera, including Streptomyces, suggesting the significance of this operon in bacteria.
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