Decoding Microorganism Communication for Antibiotic Discovery and Development

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Uonita Khachoomian, Stephanie C. Heard, Jeannette Dimple, and Jaclyn M. Winter Department of Medicinal Chemistry, College of Pharmacy, University of Utah


 Infectious diseases cause 15 million annual deaths worldwide, and over the past few decades there has been a tremendous increase in infections that are caused by antibiotic-resistant Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria.1Natural products, also known as secondary metabolites, are small molecules produced in nature that have important pharmacological applications due to their broad biological activity. In their natural environment, microorganisms exist in complex communities, and specific intra- and interspecies communication can trigger activation of silent biosynthetic gene clusters leading to production of secondary metabolites.  Pestalone is a fungal natural product produced byPestalotiasp. CNL-365 when it is co-cultured with the specific bacterial challenger CNJ-328, and it has potent antimicrobial activity against resistant bacterial strains. Pestalone harbors multiple regulatory genes in its biosynthetic cluster that play a significant role in its production. In addition to investigating the expression of several pestalone biosynthetic genes by using transcriptomics, this project also aimed to investigate the presence of these specific regulatory genes in other fungal strains in public databases.


1)Nii-Trebi N. I. (2017). Emerging and Neglected Infectious Diseases: Insights, Advances, and Challenges. BioMed research international2017, 5245021. doi:10.1155/2017/5245021.

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in College of Pharmacy, Virtual Poster Session Spring 2021


  1. Hi Uonita, I liked you poster. It was really visually appealing with all the figures and pictures. What was the most important thing you learned about conducting research through your experiences working on this project?

    1. Dr. Witt thats a great question. I learned about how organisms produced wide variety of natural products, also known as secondary metabolites, and their importance in drug discovery. The genomics has proven that have a greater potential to produce these secondary metabolites while in their natural environment and their potential is decreased in the standard laboratory conditions.

  2. Uonita, it is nice to see your research coming together. I had difficulty reading the poster, as when I tried to expand it, there was too much pixelation. Is there a higher resolution version, as I’d love to be able to go through it!

    1. Dear Dr. Keefe,
      I just emailed you my powerpoint version of the poster.

  3. Hi Uonita! What a complex topic involving pestalones that may play upcoming roles to manage bacterial resistance issues. I bet you really enjoyed working on this project! Great team! What is the next step for your research? I liked your poster! The graphics were very helpful to understand the different sections. 🙂 Thank you!

    1. Thanks Dr. Orlando. The next step would be to look at some fungal strains that we were able to obtain through our search in BLAST database, and determine whether these fungal strains are capable of producing natural products under same co-cultural condition that led to production of pestalone.

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