Julian E DaviesDepartment of Microbiology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada F1000 Head of Faculty (since 01 November 2001)
BSc degree in Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics (University of Nottingham, UK)
PhD in Organic Chemistry (University of Nottingham, UK)
Fellow of the Royal Society (UK)
Fellow of the Royal Society (Canada)
Past president of the American Society for Microbiology
Past president of the International Union of Microbiological Societies
Editor-in-Chief of Current Opinion in Microbiology
Microbial secondary metabolism presents many interesting scientific problems and commercial opportunities. The best known secondary metabolites are the antibiotics. Apart from their therapeutic applications, antibiotics are useful tools in studying cell biochemistry; the analysis of their mode of action has provided insights into the specific interaction of macromolecules and low molecular weight ligands.
Another type of secondary metabolic activity found in microbes is the degradation of exotic, man-made organic compounds (xenobiotics). The Davies laboratory is studying the genetics and biochemistry of the degradation of aromatic acids derived from lignin by streptomycetes. The strains are isolated from a variety of sites in British Columbia. Several such pathways have been characterized and novel steps have been identified.
Antibiotic resistance is a serious impediment to the treatment of infectious diseases. Ever since the introduction of antibiotics, the development of resistant strains by mutation and gene acquisition has taken place. However, very little is known of the way in which resistance comes about; for examples, mutations to resistance are often deletions to growth and compensating mutations are necessary to restore fitness. The origins of plasmid-encoded resistance genes are not known, but it's believed that they are derived from antibiotic-producing bacteria and acquired by a specific integrase-driven process. These mechanisms are being studied in the laboratory.
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