Professor Gilles van Wezel is Director of Microbial Biotechnology & Health in Leiden, The Netherlands, and chair of the Microbiology cluster at the Institute of Biology. He is also distinguished Professor at the Netherlands Ecology Institute, NIOO-KNAW, in Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Gilles has nearly 30 years of experience in Streptomyces biology and genetics. He obtained his PhD in Leiden in 1994 on the control of translational genes and did his postdoctoral research on carboin catabolite repression at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK. He became research fellow of the Netherlands Royal Academy in 2001 and full professor in Leiden in 2010. He also cofounded the biotech company Mycobics in 2002.
His research aims to unravel the global regulatory networks that control major cellular processes in Actinobacteria, combining systems biology, metabolomics and cell biology approaches. His lab has made major advances in the understanding of how septum-site localization is controlled during vegetative growth and sporulation of Streptomyces. The second major topic is the control of antibiotic production, and elucidating the (environmental) triggers and cues that control the expression of biosynthetic gene clusters. This has led to the discovery of various new bioactive molecules.
Regulatory networks that control antibiotic production in Streptomyces
Actinobacteria are producers of a plethora of natural products of agricultural, biotechnological and clinical importance. In an era where mankind has to deal with rapidly spreading antimicrobial resistance (AMR), streptomycetes are of particular importance as producers of half of all antibiotics used in the clinic. Genome sequencing efforts revealed that their capacity as antibiotic producers has been grossly underestimated, in particular as many biosynthetic pathways are silent under standard laboratory conditions. In this talk I will discuss the global regulatory networks that control antibiotic production in streptomycetes. This includes nutrient sensory pathways and the chemical ecology of microbial interactions of actinobacteria with other microbes and plants. Concepts and examples will be presented as to how these novel insights might help us to uncover the triggers and cues that elicit antibiotic production in the soil as well as in the laboratory. This should ultimately lead to the discovery no novel antimicrobial compounds to combat AMR.