Streptomyces is a genus of gram-positive endospore-forming soil bacteria. Many species have been identified with some being pathogenic. This genus is responsible for producing a majority of the anti-bacterial agents of practical value. Members of the genus occasionally occur in parasitic forms on plants and animals.

Streptomyces have a very complex life cycle which consists of two phases: vegetative growth and reproductive growth. They initiate the reproductive growth stage by the formation of aerial mycelium which gives the colony the white and fluffy appearance. Upon spore formation, colonies turn gray because of the production of gray spore pigment.2 The vegetative mycelium consists of a network of branched hyphae. For propagation, these bacteria rely on the formation of spores. In addition, they produce a wide range of secondary metabolites, or substances with diverse biological activities, some of which are of great practical value.

Members of the genus Streptomyces are also involved in the degradation of complex biopolymers such as lignin, melanins, and humic substances.3 Each Streptomyces is capable of synthesizing more than one biologically active secondary metabolite. These metabolites can interact with a large number of biological targets such as yet unidentified proteins of various organelles, DNA, RNA, and individual proteins. It is, therefore, not surprising that Streptomyces antibiotics, antifungals, citostatics, immunosuppressants, anticholesterolemics, antiparasitics, coccidiostatics, animal growth promoters and natural insecticides are in commercial use. 75% of all antibiotics important in human and veterinary medicine are produced by Streptomyces species4, including:

  • Streptomyces antibioticus - Used for the production of oleandomycin antibiotic.
  • Streptomyces aureofaciens - Used for the production of chlortetracycline antibiotic.
  • Streptomyces coelicolor - Used in the production of a number of important antibiotics.
  • Streptomyces griseus - Used for the production of streptomycin, grisein, and candicidin antibiotics.
  • Streptomyces lividans - Used for the production of commercial antibiotics and as a host for gene cloning.
  • Streptomyces lincolnensis - Used for the production of lincomycin antibiotic.
  • Streptomyces fradiae - Used for the production of tylosin antibiotic.
  • Streptomyces mediterranei - Used for the production of rifampin antibiotic.
  • Streptomyces nodosus - Used for the production of amphotericin antibiotic.
  • Streptomyces cinnamonensis - Used for the production of monensin antibiotic.
Streptomyces species
Source: CDC/Dr. David Berd


  1. MeSH
  2. Handbook of copper pharmacology and toxicology By Edward J. Massaro
  3. Soil Heavy Metals by Irena Sherameti, Ajit Varma
  4. Essays in bioinformatics, Volume 368 By David S. Moss, Sibila Jelaska, Sándor Pongor, NATO Public Diplomacy Division



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