U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Bacteria Can Eat as Well as Produce Antibiotics
Published: May 05, 2008
Posted: May 14, 2008

Unexpected new microbial defensive capabilities are emerging from genomic analyses of microbial diversity from the Genomics:GTL program and genome sequencing projects at the DOE Joint Genome Institute. Professor George Church and colleagues at the Harvard Medical School Systems Biology Center report on yet another remarkable example of microbial adaptability in the April 4 issue of the journal Science. It has long been recognized that bacteria living in soils fight to maintain their territory by producing antibiotics against their competitors; such antibiotics (such as streptomycin) have been widely used in medicine to fight infection. In the course of surveying soil microbes for useful capabilities in environmental remediation or bioenergy production, the researchers discovered a further adaptation "some microbes can eat their enemies" ammunition. This means that the original defensive purpose of these microbial antibiotics can be used as a dietary source when other nutrients are lacking. This new result may have implications for the general evolution of antibiotic resistance of microbes in a variety of health and environmental settings.

Contact: Marvin Stodolsky, SC-23.2, (301) 903-4475
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI)
  • Legacy: Medical Applications

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER
      (formerly SC-23.2 Medical Sciences Division, OBER)

 

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