• Tat system;
  • polysaccharide degradation;
  • protease cascade;
  • secondary metabolism;
  • extracellular signalling;
  • surface-active proteins


Streptomycetes, soil-dwelling mycelial bacteria that form sporulating aerial branches, have an exceptionally large number of predicted secreted proteins, including many exported via the twin-arginine transport system. Their use of noncatalytic substrate-binding proteins and hydrolytic enzymes to obtain soluble nutrients from carbohydrates such as chitin and cellulose enables them to interact with other organisms. Some of their numerous secreted proteases participate in developmentally significant extracellular cascades, regulated by inhibitors, which lead to cannibalization of the substrate mycelium biomass to support aerial growth and sporulation. They excrete many secondary metabolites, including important antibiotics. Some of these play roles in interactions with eukaryotes. Surprisingly, some antibiotic biosynthetic enzymes are extracellular. Antibiotic production is often regulated by extracellular signalling molecules, some of which also control morphological differentiation. Amphipathic proteins, assembled with the help of cellulose-like material, are required for both hyphal attachment to surfaces and aerial reproductive growth. Comparative genomic analysis suggests that the acquisition of genes for extracellular processes has played a huge part in speciation. The rare codon TTA, which is present in the key pleiotropic regulatory gene adpA and many pathway-specific regulatory genes for antibiotic production, has a particular influence on extracellular biology.