Plant Endophytes And Epiphytes: Burgeoning Sources Of Known And “Unknown” Cytotoxic And Antibiotic Agents?
In the last 20 or so years, the influence of endophytes and, quite recently, epiphytes of plants upon the compounds found in those plants, which were usually assumed to be phytochemicals produced by the plant for a variety of reasons, often as a defense against predators, is becoming more evident, in particular in the case of antitumor agents originally isolated from plant sources, though antibiotic agents might also be found, particularly from epiphytes. In this review, we started with the first report in 1993 of a taxol-producing endophyte and then expanded the compounds discussed to include camptothecin, the vinca alkaloids, podophyllotoxin, and homoharringtonine from endophytic microbes and then the realization that maytansine is not a plant secondary metabolite at all, and that even such a well-studied plant such as Arabidopsis thaliana has a vast repertoire of potential bioactive agents in its leaf epiphytic bacteria. We have taken data from a variety of sources, including a reasonable history of these discoveries that were not given in recent papers by us, nor in other papers covering this topic. The sources included the Scopus database, but we also performed other searches using bibliographic tools, thus, the majority of the papers referenced are the originals, though we note some very recent papers that have built on previous results. We concluded with a discussion of the more modern techniques that can be utilized to “persuade” endophytes and epiphytes to switch on silent biosynthetic pathways and how current analytical techniques may aid in evaluating such programs. We also comment at times on some findings, particularly in the case of homoharringtonine, where there are repetitious data reports differing by a few years claiming the same endophyte as the producer.