Extreme environments: microbiology leading to specialized metabolites

A.M. Sayed, M.H.A. Hassan, H.A. Alhadrami, H.M. Hassan, M. Goodfellow, M.E. Rateb*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)
94 Downloads (Pure)


The prevalence of multidrug-resistant microbial pathogens due to the continued misuse and overuse of antibiotics in agriculture and medicine is raising the prospect of a return to the preantibiotic days of medicine at the time of diminishing numbers of drug leads. The good news is that an increased understanding of the nature and extent of microbial diversity in natural habitats coupled with the application of new technologies in microbiology and chemistry is opening up new strategies in the search for new specialized products with therapeutic properties. This review explores the premise that harsh environmental conditions in extreme biomes, notably in deserts, permafrost soils and deep-sea sediments select for micro-organisms, especially actinobacteria, cyanobacteria and fungi, with the potential to synthesize new druggable molecules. There is evidence over the past decade that micro-organisms adapted to life in extreme habitats are a rich source of new specialized metabolites. Extreme habitats by their very nature tend to be fragile hence there is a need to conserve those known to be hot-spots of novel gifted micro-organisms needed to drive drug discovery campaigns and innovative biotechnology. This review also provides an overview of microbial-derived molecules and their biological activities focusing on the period from 2010 until 2018, over this time 186 novel structures were isolated from 129 representatives of microbial taxa recovered from extreme habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Early online date16 Jul 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jul 2019


  • Actinobacteria
  • Biological activities
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Extreme environment
  • Extremophiles
  • Fungi
  • Specialized metabolites


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