Chemical Ecology

Traditionally, natural products have been isolated by bioactivity-guided fractionation from extracts obtained from a few genera of talented secondary metabolite producers. This simple workflow has fueled the “Golden Age of Antibiotics” between 1950s and 1970s. Since the low hanging fruits have been picked, sticking to the same few talented producer phyla and sample types has resulted in the frequent rediscovery of known metabolites. We focus our efforts on poorly studied ecological niches that are shaped by natural products with a certain bioactivity. Our hypothesis-driven, function-first approach for the identification of bioactive natural products based on simple bioassays is an adaptation of the traditional bioactivity-guided fractionation workflow. In addition to the smart selection of an ecological niche to study and a robust bioassay these studies are complemented by imaging mass spectrometry to identify the metabolite responsible for the observed bioactivity prior to the isolation and genome sequencing as two means of early dereplication.

Selected project-related publications

Specialized Metabolites Reveal Evolutionary History and Geographic Dispersion of a Multilateral Symbiosis I ACS Central Science I 2021

Bipartite interactions, antibiotic production and biosynthetic potential of the Arabidopsis leaf microbiome I Nature Microbiology I 2018

Nostopeptolide plays a governing role during cellular differentiation of the symbiotic cyanobacterium Nostoc punctiforme I Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences I 2015

Lab members working on project

Thao Ngoc Phan

PhD student

Dr. Sirinthra Thiengmag


Ayesha Ahmed

PhD student

Julia Spies

PhD student