Phylogenetic Studies on the Prodigiosin Biosynthetic Operon

  • Aarti Ravindran
  • Shruthi Sunderrajan
  • Gautam PennathurEmail author


Prodigiosin and undecylprodigiosin are tripyrrolic red pigmented antibiotics produced by certain bacteria. Many strains of Serratia and certain other Gammaproteobacteria produce prodigiosin and undecylprodigiosin is produced by certain strains of Streptomyces. This is a multistage process which involves the synthesis of a bipyrrolic compound from L-proline and its subsequent condensation with a mono pyrrole synthesized from 2-octenal in the case of prodigiosin and malonyl-CoA in the case of undecylprodigiosin respectively. We have carried out sequence analysis of the genes involved in the pathway and identified the distribution of the prodigiosin producing genes amongst the various bacteria which have been fully sequenced. The presence of the operon was clearly seen in certain clustered branches suggesting inheritance from a common ancestor. This was further confirmed by the absence of traits observed in horizontally acquired genes like, GC content variation, codon bias or the presence of mobile elements. Multiple sequence alignment of the promoter of the prodigiosin operon in seven fully sequenced Serratia marcescens strains showed excellent homology. Putative regulatory elements in this region were identified by sequence analysis studies and many of them have been found to influence pigment production. The undecylprodigiosin gene cluster on the other hand, shows homology to other gene clusters involved in the production of other pyrrole-containing antibiotics of the genus Streptomyces. This coupled with the presence of ORFs with three different promoters could indicate lateral gene transfer. Hence the evolution of undecylprodigiosin operon could be an example of convergent evolution.



This work was supported by a Grant from Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, (BT/PR5106/BRB/10/1073/2012). We also thank the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India for their funding. Aarti Ravindran thanks Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Government of India for her Fellowship (CSIR-NET). The authors are grateful to Dr. Sharmila Anishetty for her valuable insights and guidance during this work.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for BiotechnologyAnna UniversityChennaiIndia
  2. 2.Department of Chemical EngineeringAnna UniversityChennaiIndia

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