5 years ago

Screening and identification of novel biologically active natural compounds [version 1; referees: 2 approved]

David Newman
With the advent of very rapid and cheap genome analyses and the linkage of these plus microbial metabolomics to potential compound structures came the realization that there was an immense sea of novel agents to be mined and tested. In addition, it is now recognized that there is significant microbial involvement in many natural products isolated from “nominally non-microbial sources”. This short review covers the current screening methods that have evolved and one might even be tempted to say “devolved” in light of the realization that target-based screens had problems when the products entered clinical testing, with off-target effects being the major ones. Modern systems include, but are not limited to, screening in cell lines utilizing very modern techniques (a high content screen) that are designed to show interactions within cells when treated with an “agent”. The underlying principle(s) used in such systems dated back to unpublished attempts in the very early 1980s by the pharmaceutical industry to show toxic interactions within animal cells by using automated light microscopy. Though somewhat successful, the technology was not adequate for any significant commercialization. Somewhat later, mammalian cell lines that were “genetically modified” to alter signal transduction cascades, either up or down, and frequently linked to luciferase readouts, were then employed in a 96-well format. In the case of microbes, specific resistance parameters were induced in isogenic cell lines from approximately the mid-1970s. In the latter two cases, comparisons against parent and sibling cell lines were used in order that a rapid determination of potential natural product “hits” could be made. Obviously, all of these assay systems could also be, and were, used for synthetic molecules. These methods and their results have led to a change in what the term “screening for bioactivity” means. In practice, versions of phenotypic screening are returning, but in a dramatically different scientific environment from the 1970s, as I hope to demonstrate in the short article that follows.

Publisher URL: https://f1000research.com/articles/6-783/v1

DOI: 10.12688/f1000research.11221.1

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