This lab has two resesarch foci:
- The secondary metabolites of microbes are an important source for bioactive compounds that humans utilize for antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals. However, there is a growing need for the identification of new bioactive compounds to help solve problems like antibiotic resistance. The identification of new microbes, with potentially novel secondary metabolites, from previously unexplored habitats holds the potential for the development of these compounds. Freshwater sponges are known to harbor a diverse community of microbes. However, to date, microbes from freshwater sponges have generally been overlooked for their potential novel secondary metabolites, because many of these microbes are difficult to culture. The use of high-throughput sequencing through shotgun metagenomics can be used to identify new unculturable microbes and for exploration of their genomes for useful secondary metabolites. This project uses high-throughput sequencing to determine the microbial species present in Minnesota’s freshwater sponges and examine their genome for secondary metabolites that could be useful bioactive compounds. If successful, this research will allow for experimental testing of compounds for their bioactivity and development for human purposes.
- The development as male or female is one of the most important developmental decisions by an organism. Despite the importance of this decision, very little is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying sexual differentiation in any species. This research group is interested in understanding how the gonads differentiate to form testes or ovaries and what are the genes and other regulatory elements involved in this process. They are especially interested in how miRNAs may regulated the expression of key genes necessary for proper formation of the gonads. They utilize next-generation sequencing to identify differentially expressed miRNAs. They also use Ago-seq for identifying targets of the differentially expressed miRNAs during gonad differentiation. The results of these studies will provide insights into the regulatory mechanisms involved in formation of the gonads and that may be involved in issues with proper gonad formation leading to infertility.