APR 12, 2018 09:00 AM PDT

Metabolites, Germs and People: Eavesdropping on Human Microbial Communities

C.E. CREDITS: P.A.C.E. CE | Florida CE
  • Assistant Professor, Molecular Biology & Biochemistry/Pediatrics, University of California, Irvine
      Dr. Katrine Whiteson is interested in understanding how individual and persistent human-associated microbial and viral communities affect health. Infection with a bacterial pathogen, vaccination, immune development and even taking a Tylenol does not occur in a vacuum. Humans evolved in the presence of the dynamic microbial and viral communities that constantly inhabit our bodies, encoding the majority of unique metabolic genes. She studied Biochemistry at UC Berkeley (BA, 2000) and University of Chicago (PhD, 2007). During her PhD, Dr. Whiteson focused on the active site chemistry and DNA binding specificity of a site-specific recombinase from the class of proteins that enable the spread of antibiotic resistance genes. After working as a lecturer at UC Irvine for a year in 2007-2008, she moved to Geneva, Switzerland, and joined the Genomic Research Lab at the University of Geneva Hospitals with Dr. Jacques Schrenzel and Dr. Patrice Francois. This was an exciting era, just at the start of the Human Microbiome Project, for asking basic unanswered questions about the microbes and viruses inhabiting various niches of the human body. Dr. Whiteson focused on the oral microbial communities of healthy Europeans, and malnourished kids in Niger who develop a devastating facial gangrene known as noma. In 2011 she moved to Prof. Forest Rohwer's lab at San Diego State, where she undertook breath and sputum metabolite analysis to better understand the activity of CF patient microbial communities from Dr. Doug Conrad's Adult CF clinic at UCSD. Combining information about the genetic potential of a microbial community through DNA sequencing with the activity of the community by metabolite profiling is a powerful approach that Dr. Whiteson hopes to employ in future projects as she begins her own lab at University of California Irvine. More information can be found here: http://faculty.sites.uci.edu/whitesonlab/


    The Whiteson lab uses culture-independent metagenomics, metabolomics, and ecological statistics along with hypothesis driven, reductionist microbiology to answer questions about how bacteria and viruses affect human health. Several recent research projects will be presented from 1) healthy humans, 2) pre-mature infants from Children’s Hospital Orange County, and 3) Cystic Fibrosis patients.

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