JUN 30, 2015 12:48 PM PDT

Vanderbilt Chemists Organize a Microbial Fight Club

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
Bacteria produce a medley of secondary metabolites in response to their environment. Often, these metabolites are used to fend off rival microorganisms, making them ideal antibacterial and anticancer drug candidates. However, many of these metabolites are not produced when bacteria are grown in monoculture. A group of Vanderbilt University chemists solved this problem by organizing a microbial fight club.

Brian Bachmann, Associate Professor of Chemistry, and John McLean, Stevenson Professor of Chemistry, describe their unique approach to drug discovery in the journal ACS Chemical Biology (ACS Chem Biol. 2015 Jun 17). The group co-cultured the soil-dwelling bacterium Nocardiopsis with Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, Rhodococcus wratislaviensis, and Tsukamurella pulmonis.

Vanderbilt University chemists designed a bacterial fight club to discover new drugs.
They looked for secondary metabolites in the co-culture media using ion mobility-mass spectrometry, a technique that sorts molecules based on their size to weight ratio. This approach identified upwards of 2,500 unique molecules from each co-culture. In each case, more metabolites were found in the co-culture than in either individual culture combined, suggesting that unique metabolites were produced when different species interacted.

To identify metabolites that were similar in structure to known antibiotics and anticancer drugs, the researchers developed a "self-organizing metabolomics map". This approach identified a unique metabolite from the Nocardiopsis/Rhodococcus co-culture, a macrolactam type polyketide now named "ciromicin".

This isn't the Bachmann Lab's only creative approach to drug discovery. In collaboration with Hazel Barton, Professor of Microbiology and Geology at the University of Akron, Bachmann looked for novel antibiotics made by cave-dwelling bacteria. One sample from Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico contained 38 antibiotic compounds, an impressive figure when you consider there are fewer than 100 known antibiotics.

Sources: ACS Chemical Biology, Science Daily, BBC
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
AUG 18, 2020
Microbiology
Syphilis was Spreading in Europe Before Columbus' Time
AUG 18, 2020
Syphilis was Spreading in Europe Before Columbus' Time
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterium: Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. Its origins ha ...
AUG 24, 2020
Microbiology
Microbes That Live on Air Alone Found Outside of Antarctica
AUG 24, 2020
Microbes That Live on Air Alone Found Outside of Antarctica
In 2017, researchers reported that they had identified microbes in Antarctica that could basically survive on only air. ...
SEP 13, 2020
Microbiology
Amazing Images of the Pandemic Virus SARS-CoV-2
SEP 13, 2020
Amazing Images of the Pandemic Virus SARS-CoV-2
Researchers in the lab of Camille Ehre, Ph.D. at the UNC School of Medicine have created amazing images of the pandemic ...
SEP 21, 2020
Microbiology
A Fast, Cheap Way to See if Two Antibiotics Work Together
SEP 21, 2020
A Fast, Cheap Way to See if Two Antibiotics Work Together
When a person has a bacterial infection, doctors can prescribe antibiotics. Some antibiotics combos can work better than ...
NOV 05, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Digging DEEP into Metabolomic Space
NOV 05, 2020
Digging DEEP into Metabolomic Space
Metabolomics is an umbrella term encompassing lipidomics and the study of smaller polar metabolites.  As such, more ...
NOV 22, 2020
Microbiology
The Mechanisms Underlying Rotavirus Infections are Revealed
NOV 22, 2020
The Mechanisms Underlying Rotavirus Infections are Revealed
Rotaviruses are the biggest reason why young children get diarrhea. It's estimated that 215,000 kids die every year from ...
Loading Comments...