News & Events

Brian T. Murphy, Ph.D.

Posted on March 25, 2022


Date - March 25, 2022
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm


Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences
University of Illinois at Chicago
Talk Title: Distribution of Natural Products in the Environment


Environmental microorganisms continue to serve as a major source of bioactive natural products (NPs) and as an inspiration for many other scaffolds in the toolbox of modern medicine. Nearly all microbial NP-inspired therapies can be traced to field expeditions to collect samples from the environment. Despite the importance of these expeditions in the search for new drugs, few studies have attempted to document the extent to which NPs or their corresponding production genes are distributed within a given environment. In contrast to several downstream steps in this pipeline that have evolved considerably this past century (chromatography, spectroscopy, NP dereplication, gene sequencing), the initial steps of sample collection and microbial library generation have seen relatively few significant conceptual advances and have relied on a high degree of serendipity – and these steps are arguably the most critical parts of a lead discovery pipeline. Researchers have been limited to, generously speaking, educated guesses as to the extent to which geographic locations should be sampled. Looking forward, it is necessary to define the available microbial and NP diversity in collection regions from as large as several kilometers, to areas as small as one cm3 of sediment, and understand dynamics of NP populations over time. Our lab has employed both cultivation-dependent and -independent analyses to gain initial insight into this. Work that examines taxonomic and NP overlap within the culturable microbiome of two freshwater sponges collected 1 km apart, in addition to the distribution of NP biosynthetic genes across a 59,590 km2 region of Lake Huron, will be presented.

Chase M. Clark1, Maryam Elfeki1, Antonio Hernandez1, Shrikant Mantri2, Radhika Dhakal1, Nyssa Krull1, Kevin Kim1, Michael W. Mullowney1, Jhewelle Fitz-Henley1, Emma Li1, Sean B. Romanowski1, Renata Manconi3,4, Roberto Pronzato4, Stefan Green3, Nadine Ziemert2, Brian T. Murphy1

1 Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL

2 German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF), Interfaculty Institute of Microbiology and Infection Medicine Tübingen, _University of Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 28, 72076 Tübingen, Germany

3 DNA Services Facility, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL

4 Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell’Ambiente e della Vita, Università di Genova, Genova, Italy

5 Dipartimento Medicina Veterinaria, Università di Sassari, Sassari, Italy

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