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
OCT 01, 2018
Microbiology
OCT 01, 2018
A Virus That can Help Ensure Water is Clean
It's estimated that 780 million people worldwide don't have access to clean drinking water....
OCT 16, 2018
Videos
OCT 16, 2018
Can the Bacteria That we Carry Give us Special Powers?
The bacteria that we carry in and on our bodies can affect our health and well-being in many ways....
OCT 23, 2018
Microbiology
OCT 23, 2018
DNA Pumps up Bacterial Cells
Cells are the basic building blocks of life, and have been well-studied since they were discovered in 1655....
NOV 21, 2018
Immunology
NOV 21, 2018
Yin and Yang of Malaria
Researchers determine the affect of preventative treatment for malaria on infants...
NOV 23, 2018
Videos
NOV 23, 2018
Another Food Recall: Ground Turkey
The USDA announced that Jennie-O has recalled about 147,276 pounds of its ground raw turkey products....
NOV 29, 2018
Microbiology
NOV 29, 2018
Bacteria may Explain the Symbiotic Relationship of Anemones & Clownfish
Sea anemones normally kill and eat fish. But clownfish can nestle into anemones without getting stung....
Loading Comments...