Dylan McClung: Antibiotic Discovery Through Actinomycete Interspecies Interactions


Natural products are a class of chemical compounds produced by organisms. Many of these compounds possess therapeutic properties, such as antibacterial, antifungal, or anticancer characteristics. With the rise in microbial resistance to the antibiotics currently prescribed by health-care professionals, we need to develop new therapies to combat these multi-drug resistant microbes. Discovering novel drugs within the pool of natural products already made by organisms is one way to develop new therapeutics. Actinomycete bacteria represent a rich source of natural products. However, only a fraction of the natural product biosynthesis gene clusters are expressed when a species grows in pure culture. Growing two unique actinomycete species together stimulates production of different natural products, some of which are potentially novel compounds. My project focuses on natural product discovery in a diverse set of actinomycetes. Using microfluidics, analytical chemistry, and genetic tools, I will analyze pair-wise interactions of actinomycetes to identify new natural products (i.e. antibiotics) and the biosynthetic gene clusters responsible for producing them.