Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Aimee Cortez L&S Sciences

The Ecology of Antibiotic Production in Interspecies Interactions

The soil microbial community is rich with bacteria that provide an abundant source of medically valuable natural antibiotics and pharmaceuticals. In particular, Streptomyces padanus possesses antimicrobial activity and produces actinomycin D, an antibiotic with antitumor properties. However, there is a lack of understanding in the field regarding the ecology of antibiotic production in S. padanus — specifically how antibiotic products contribute to antimicrobial activity during microbial interactions. Preliminary data suggests that activity of actinomycin D inhibits growth of the fungus Metarhizium anisopliae during interspecies interactions. In my research, I will adapt an engineered CRISPR/Cas9 system to delete actinomycin D activity in S. padanus, which is a novel method for this species. I will then analyze whether Metarhizium is still inhibited by mutant S. padanus during interactions. This will confirm whether actinomycin D plays a significant role in this bacterial-fungi interaction. By creating mutant strains and testing their interactions with fungi, my research will contribute to a better understanding about CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing in S. padanus and this species ecological role in the soil environment.

Message To Sponsor

I am immensely grateful to have participated in the SURF program this summer because I was able to grow a lot as a scientific researcher. For example, I now feel more confident about designing my own experiments, persevering through roadblocks in my experiments, and giving quality presentations to an audience. Despite the restrictions caused by social distancing, I got to know my lab members and some of my fellow SURF participants more, which has been really fun and has built a strong sense of community during these times. As for the future, I'm looking forward to doing more research in the sciences and contributing to a growing knowledge in the field. Thank you to everyone who made SURF possible this summer, especially to the Pergo Fund, my donor!
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Major: Molecular Cell Biology: Neurobiology
Mentor: Matthew Traxler
Sponsor: Pergo Fund
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