Plant pathogenic anaerobic bacteria use aromatic polyketides to access aerobic territory.
Around 25% of vegetable food is lost worldwide because of infectious plant diseases, including microbe-induced decay of harvested crops. In wet seasons and under humid storage conditions, potato tubers are readily infected and decomposed by anaerobic bacteria (Clostridium puniceum). We found that these anaerobic plant pathogens harbor a gene locus (type II polyketide synthase) to produce unusual polyketide metabolites (clostrubins) with dual functions. The clostrubins, which act as antibiotics against other microbial plant pathogens, enable the anaerobic bacteria to survive an oxygen-rich plant environment.