Similar to macroorganisms, defense strategies are crucial for microorganisms to ensure their survival. However, some major differences exist in the defense mechanisms of microorganisms as compared to that of macroorganisms.
It seems that microorganisms usually do not have the need to store toxins as inactive precursors (see Plant Defense Strategies, Animal Defense Strategies, Defense Strategies of Marine and Aquatic Organisms, and Fungal Defense Strategies) but produce toxins along with toxin exporters or other kinds of resistance mechanisms.
In contrast to most other organisms that usually defend themselves with structurally rather simple compounds, the toxins of microorganisms are often complex, large molecules of polyketide, nonribosomal peptide, or mixed polyketide/nonribosomal peptide origin.
Besides chemical defense compounds, many microorganisms have the remarkable potential to ensure their survival by switching their lifestyle into a dormant state, for example, spore formation, which enables them to endure unfavorable conditions for many years.
In recent years, it has become more and more evident that microbial symbionts play a pivotal role in their hosts that are supplied with defense compounds synthesized by their microbial symbionts.
Even though some striking examples exist, an increasing focus on the microbial chemical ecology will reveal many more aspects about how bacteria coordinate their life and will allow us to appreciate the role of secondary metabolites for the producing organisms and their function in interactions with other organisms.
See also: Animal Defense Strategies; Defense Strategies of Marine and Aquatic Organisms; Evolution of Defense Strategies; Fungal Defense Strategies; Plant Defense Strategies.
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