Research Fellows Directory
Dr Andrew Truman
John Innes Centre
Bacteria make an incredible number of chemical compounds that are invaluable for a variety of medical and agricultural purposes, including antibiotics, antifungals, anticancer compounds and insecticides. In fact, the majority of clinically used antibiotics come from soil-dwelling bacteria. This ability to produce these biologically active molecules stems from the evolutionary advantage the molecules provide to the producer. For example, bacteria have evolved the ability to produce powerful antibiotics to kill competing neighbouring microbes. The recent crisis in the rise of multi-drug resistant bacterial infections means that there is a pressing need to discover new antibiotics, and we believe that there are many novel antibiotics that remain to be discovered from bacteria.
These natural products are produced by the action of a series of enzymes (proteins), which are encoded by genes (DNA) in the bacterial genome. Thousands of bacterial genomes have now been sequenced, and by analysing this data (“genome mining”), we can predict what compounds a bacterium should be able to make. This has revealed that many soil-dwelling bacteria appear to be capable of producing many more compounds than have been identified. These cryptic compounds may be potent medicines or have other important biological functions. This makes the identification of these compounds a significant research goal. Genetic and chemical methods are being used to identify these molecules and understand how they are made. For example, one compound I am currently researching is an antibiotic called bottromycin. It has a novel structure and unique mode of action, which make it a highly promising antibiotic of the future, especially as it is active against dangerous infections like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Bottromycin has a number of features that prevent it from being used clinically, but an understanding of how it is made is helping us redesign the pathway to make better versions.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)