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Natural Product Discovery and Biosynthesis Studies

Research: Project

Natural Product Discovery and Development of Biological Control Agents

In our group, we aim to discover natural products from fungi, including ascomycete and basidiomycete strains, and exploit them for beneficial uses. For instance, we focus on characterising microbial strains that can be used for the biological control of plant diseases. We have characterised, in collaboration with the Bunawan lab (National University of Malaysia), Trichoderma strains that inhibit the growth of the papaya dieback pathogen Erwinia mallotivora and we are currently working on the isolation of natural products involved in the antimicrobial activity of the fungi. Similarly, we have collaborated with the Greco lab (Swansea University) to characterise endophyte Daldinia fungi from tropical ancient plants that show the ability to inhibit the growth of various plant pathogenic fungi.

We also work on actinomycetes bacteria. In collaboration with the Corre Lab (Warwick), we optimised a strategy to discover natural products from actinomycetes and characterise their biosynthesis. In this approach, gene clusters are captured through yeast-based homologous recombination, and biosynthetic genes are derepressed with CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing.

Selected references:

Current group members working on this theme:

  • Mr Richard Olumakaiye (PhD student)

  • Ms Sophie Jin (PhD student)

  • Ms Jingfan Zhang (PhD student)

Daily dose of vitamins

Studying and Refactoring Terpenoids Biosynthesis

Research in the Alberti Lab aims to understand how specific bioactive terpenoids, one of the main classes of fungal natural products, are assembled in higher fungi. To this aim, we have developed a platform, based on Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker's yeast), that accumulates increased amounts of precursors to a specific class of terpenoid derivatives called isoprenoid quinones. We are currently using this platform to study the biosynthesis of selected bioactive terpenoids made by fungi. We have also been using the well-established workhorse Aspergillus oryzae as a heterologous host to refactor the biosynthesis of fungal natural products and produce new congeners of them, including of the antibiotic pleuromutilin. 

Selected references:

Current group members working on this theme:

  • Dr Panward Prasongpholchai (PDRA)

Wild Mushrooms

Developing Tools for the Engineering of Fungi

Fungi represent an incredibly rich reservoir of natural products, which often show potent bioactivity and find applications in different fields. Research in the Alberti Lab aims to develop new synthetic biology tools that can be employed to engineer higher fungi and explore the biosynthetic diversity that they have to offer. 

Selected reference:

Current group members working on this theme:

  • Dr Panward Prasongpholchai (PDRA)

  • Dr Tiantian Fu (Senior Research Technician)

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