Christopher J. Thibodeaux, Associate Director
🏢 Pulp & Paper Building, Room 314
🔬 Research interest: natural products, peptides, biosynthesis, genome mining, enzymology, mass spectrometry, antimicrobial resistance, biofilms
My lab is engaged in research efforts aimed at combatting the problem of antimicrobial resistance which, if left unchecked, has been predicted to become one of the most serious public health threats to ever face the human race. We take three general approaches to address this problem. First, we study the detailed molecular mechanisms of enzymes that synthesize structurally complex antimicrobial compounds. While our initial research focuses on the basic mechanistic principles of this process, our work may eventually inform rational approaches to engineer these catalytic systems for the production of novel antimicrobial compounds. Second, we discover new, naturally occurring antimicrobial compounds by mining the vast genome sequence databases available in the post-genomic era. Using our ever-increasing understanding of natural biosynthetic processes, we can rapidly identify novel biosynthetic pathways and manipulate the genes to produce the encoded antimicrobial compound. This approach provides direct access to novel antimicrobial compounds that can potentially be developed as human therapeutics. Finally, we investigate the mechanisms used by bacteria to establish infections in humans. Specifically, we seek an understanding of how bacteria regulate the formation of biofilms using small molecule signaling and protein-protein interactions. Many of the biomolecular interactions we study in this project represent potentially useful, yet unexplored targets for the development of novel antibacterial strategies.