Fosfomycin is a member of a class of compounds called phosphonic acids, a natural antibiotic approved by the FDA to control pathogens against which penicillin and vancomycin are no longer effective. It has also, for example, been demonstrated to be effective against Listeriosis in vivo. However, conventional production of fosfomycin by bacteria only yields low amounts.
By using cloning techniques, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were able to clone the essential genes for fosfomycin synthesis from Streptomyces fradiae and then produce it in a non-native host, Streptomyces lividians, potentially in much larger quantities. They also hope to be able to produce fosfomycin in Escherichia coli so that they can “use various protein and metaboliclinks engineering tools to manipulate the fosfomycin biosynthetic pathway.”
Aside form the success in cloning, the scientists were also able to identify the genes involved in the fosfomycin biosynthesis pathway and the function of these genes. The study has been published in a recent issue of the journal, Chemistry and Biology. For an overview, read the feature report from the Univ of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.