Skip to main content

Expert to give talk on animal microbiome

Seth Bordenstein
December 15, 2014

Vanderbilt University professor Seth Bordenstein recently found a new source for antibiotics in Archaea, a kingdom of single-celled microorganisms that lives in hydrothermal vents, marine algae and the mammalian gut. Bordenstein is scheduled to speak about “Animal Microbiomes and the Origin of Species” as part of the Biodesign Discovery Series at Arizona State University, Dec. 16.

“You can’t overstate the significance of the antibiotic resistance problem that humanity is facing,” said Bordenstein. “This discovery should help energize the pursuit for new antibiotics in this underexplored group of life.”

The research, conducted in collaboration with scientists at Portland State University, points to horizontal gene transfer as the method by which Archaea acquired a lysozyme with antibiotic properties, killing certain bacteria.

“It has been co-opted by different domains of life to be used as an antibacterial weapon,” said Bordenstein, who has received a lot of attention since a pair of studies was published in the journals Nature and eLife in November.

The strangest part about his findings is that the antibacterial gene has been found in aphids, mossy plants, bacteria-invading viruses called phages, viruses and even bacteria.

Bordenstein is an associate professor of biological sciences and pathology, microbiology and immunology at Vanderbilt University. He is the founding director of the worldwide Howard Hughes Medical Institute outreach program “Discover the Microbes Within!” He received a doctorate degree from the University of Rochester and held a postdoctoral fellowship with the National Research Council while at the Marine Biological Laboratory.

Bordenstein’s lecture will be held at 1 p.m. in Biodesign’s auditorium (B105) at 727 E. Tyler St. in Tempe, Arizona. Seating is limited, so plan to arrive early. The lecture will also be webcast and available on-demand after Dec. 30.

For more information, visit