The streptomycetes are Gram-positive, soil-dwelling bacteria renowned for their metabolic diversity and morphological complexity. They produce a vast array of compounds (known collectively as 'secondary metabolites') having profound medical benefits, including anti-cancer agents, immuno-suppressants, and more than 80% of commercially important antibiotics. In addition, Streptomyces have a multicellular life-cycle, differentiating into distinct tissue types in response to environmental stimuli, and provide a unique opportunity to explore cell differentiation in a simple, bacterial system. Intriguingly, differentiation and antibiotic production are intricately connected and share many regulatory links. Using genetic, biochemical, cell-biological and post-genomic technologies, the ultimate goals of Dr. Marie Elliot’s research program are:
1. To understand how cellular differentiation is achieved in a multi-Cellular bacterium;
2. To understand how newly discovered RNA regulators act to control differentiation, metabolism, and environmental adaptation; and
3. To develop ways of stimulating new antibiotic production, helping to overcome resistance to existing antibiotics and treat infectious disease.