(Leave of absence) Frederick Phineas Rose Prof Mol, Cell & Dev Bio & Howard Hughes Med Inst
Research in the Handelsman lab focuses on understanding diversity in microbial communities and the role of microbial communities in infectious disease. In particular, we are interested in understanding a gut community that serves as a source of opportunistic pathogens, and the soil microbial community as a source of new genes and proteins. To study opportunistic pathogens, we developed a model system with the normal gut microbiota in lepidopteran insects. These normally benign bacteria kill the host under certain conditions, and our work aims to determine the mechanistic basis for host death. To explore microbial diversity, we use functional metagenomics to probe genetic and biochemical diversity in microbial communities. Metagenomics circumvents culturing, thereby capturing genetic information from organisms that cannot be cultured by standard methods, which represent the majority of the microbial world. Through this approach, we have discovered novel antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes, some of which encode bifunctional proteins.