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Paul Straight

Straight, Paul
Paul Straight
Associate Professor
BioBio / Room 435A
Undergraduate Education
B.A. Lewis & Clark College, 1992
Graduate Education
Ph.D. University of Colorado, Boulder, 2000
Postdoc. Harvard Medical School, 2001-2007
Joined Texas A&M in 2008
NSF CAREER Award 2013

Microbial Interactions and Secondary Metabolism

Microorganisms produce the majority of our antibiotics, antifungal, antiviral, and anticancer therapeutics. Yet, these natural product medicines represent only a small fraction of the chemically diverse small molecules produced primarily by bacteria and fungi. The functions of such compounds in microbial communities are sure to be as diverse as the chemical structures themselves, although little is known beyond a handful of examples. Our laboratory studies the function of small molecules as chemical signals in the microbial world. We focus on the interactions between different species of bacteria in co-culture to understand how diverse chemical signals are synthesized and perceived.

Our goal is to understand how microorganisms interact in complex communities. Specifically, we study how small molecules produced in a microbial community affect the growth, development and metabolic output of the organisms. We use a combination of microbiology, genetic, genomic, and biochemical approaches to dissect complex interspecies interactions. Currently, our research focuses on the interactions of the soil bacteria Bacillus subtilis and members of the genus Streptomyces, known for their prolific production of bioactive small molecules and development of aerial structures and spores.

Microbial developmental processes are particularly attuned to environmental signals, including those generated by neighboring organisms. In one area of research interest, we investigate developmental interactions between bacteria in order to probe the mode of action of small molecules beyond a query of antibiotic activity. As a second area of interest, we study the regulation and assembly of the enzymatic machinery for small molecule synthesis and export by the producer cell. To synthesize low molecular weight compounds of precise chemical structure, microorganisms use protein enzymatic complexes that are often larger than the ribosome. The energy invested in producing these synthases underscores the importance of the compounds in environmentally relevant settings. Understanding the activity and synthesis of microbial small molecules will help us predict the outcome of complex interactions in natural environments and will highlight strategies for discovery of new therapeutics and new therapeutic targets.

Recent Publications

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  1. Zhang, C, Straight, PD. Antibiotic discovery through microbial interactions. Curr. Opin. Microbiol. 2019;51 :64-71.
    doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2019.06.006. PubMed PMID:31344518. .

  2. Liu, Y, Kyle, S, Straight, PD. Antibiotic Stimulation of a Bacillus subtilis Migratory Response. mSphere. ;3 (1):.
    doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00586-17. PubMed PMID:29507890. PubMed Central PMC5821984.

  3. Stubbendieck, RM, Brock, DJ, Pellois, JP, Gill, JJ, Straight, PD. Linearmycins are lytic membrane-targeting antibiotics. J. Antibiot. 2018;71 (3):372-381.
    doi: 10.1038/s41429-017-0005-z. PubMed PMID:29348524. .

  4. Hoefler, BC, Stubbendieck, RM, Josyula, NK, Moisan, SM, Schulze, EM, Straight, PD et al.. A Link between Linearmycin Biosynthesis and Extracellular Vesicle Genesis Connects Specialized Metabolism and Bacterial Membrane Physiology. Cell Chem Biol. 2017;24 (10):1238-1249.e7.
    doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2017.08.008. PubMed PMID:28919037. .

  5. Stubbendieck, RM, Straight, PD. Linearmycins Activate a Two-Component Signaling System Involved in Bacterial Competition and Biofilm Morphology. J. Bacteriol. 2017;199 (18):.
    doi: 10.1128/JB.00186-17. PubMed PMID:28461449. PubMed Central PMC5573067.

  6. Goodson, JR, Klupt, S, Zhang, C, Straight, P, Winkler, WC. LoaP is a broadly conserved antiterminator protein that regulates antibiotic gene clusters in Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. Nat Microbiol. 2017;2 :17003.
    doi: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2017.3. PubMed PMID:28191883. PubMed Central PMC5913657.

  7. Stubbendieck, RM, Vargas-Bautista, C, Straight, PD. Bacterial Communities: Interactions to Scale. Front Microbiol. 2016;7 :1234.
    doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.01234. PubMed PMID:27551280. PubMed Central PMC4976088.

  8. Stubbendieck, RM, Straight, PD. Multifaceted Interfaces of Bacterial Competition. J. Bacteriol. 2016;198 (16):2145-55.
    doi: 10.1128/JB.00275-16. PubMed PMID:27246570. PubMed Central PMC4966439.

  9. Stubbendieck, RM, Straight, PD. Correction: Escape from Lethal Bacterial Competition through Coupled Activation of Antibiotic Resistance and a Mobilized Subpopulation. PLoS Genet. 2016;12 (1):e1005807.
    doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1005807. PubMed PMID:26752286. PubMed Central PMC4709098.

  10. Stubbendieck, RM, Straight, PD. Escape from Lethal Bacterial Competition through Coupled Activation of Antibiotic Resistance and a Mobilized Subpopulation. PLoS Genet. 2015;11 (12):e1005722.
    doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1005722. PubMed PMID:26647299. PubMed Central PMC4672918.

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