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Mervyn Bibb


Mervyn Bibb

One of the major interests of my group is the regulation of secondary metabolism, particularly antibiotic production, in streptomycetes and their relatives, and its growth phase-dependence.

A variety of molecular and genetic techniques, including global transcriptome analysis, are being used to study secondary metabolic gene clusters in Streptomyces coelicolor, the most genetically characterised actinomycete, and Streptomyces venezuelae. The ultimate aim of this work is to elucidate the regulatory networks and mechanisms of signal transduction responsible for activating the expression of these gene clusters. We are also using transposon mutagenesis to identify novel regulatory genes for antibiotic biosynthesis in S. coelicolor, and assessing the role of unusual serine-threonine protein kinases in secondary metabolite production in this organism.

The recent sequencing of the complete genomes of several streptomycete species revealed the presence of a large number of “cryptic” secondary metabolic gene clusters, and led to the realisation that these organisms have the ability to produce many more natural products than had previously been recognised. One of the aims of our work is to identify the physiological signals and regulatory mechanisms responsible for the activation of these “cryptic” pathways, thus unleashing the full biosynthetic potential of these organisms. To complement this work, and to facilitate the expression and manipulation of heterologous secondary metabolic gene clusters, we are also constructing a derivative of S. coelicolor that has been engineered for generically improved secondary metabolite synthesis.

Another major area of study involves an unusual class of peptide antibiotics (lantibiotics) made by streptomycetes and other high G+C actinomycetes. Work is in progress to understand the biosynthesis and regulation of production of the lantibiotic cinnamycin made by Streptomyces cinnamoneus. We are also isolating and characterising gene clusters encoding lantibiotics from a number of different so called “rare” actinomycetes. One of the ultimate goals of this work is to use recombinant approaches to generate novel peptides with valuable pharmaceutical and agricultural applications.

Images of actinomycetes


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