Phages as elicitors for silent clusters and secondary metabolite production
Many microbes have evolved to cope with predators, rival bacteria, or bacteriophages by producing diverse natural products. These specialized metabolites are not crucial for survival, but provide selective advantages to the producers by acting as defenses against rival bacteria or bacteriophages, as quorum sensing signals, or as transporting/chelating agents. The blueprints for the synthesis of these molecules are encoded on biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) in bacterial genomes. However, most of these BGCs are silent under standard laboratory conditions and are only activated under specific environmental factors e.g. phage infection. Our goal is to study phage infections as elicitors to boost specialized metabolite production in bacteria. We then aim to characterize these induced molecules and test their roles as antiviral defenses with potential to identify new leads for anti-infective drugs.
Prof. Dr. Jörn Piel ETH Zurich Institute of Microbiology