Our program is focused on the discovery and investigation of new microbial compounds which are relevant in an pharmaceutical or agricultural context. Apart from conventional natural product chemistry, the Gross group employs genomic mining, an innovative and promising approach to identify and isolate new natural products.
Genomic mining begins with a bioinformatic search for new secondary metabolite biosynthesis genes in the genome of microorganisms. Once bioinformatically identified and predicted, the resultant compound can be tracked down employing various mining tools. Considering that recent whole genome-sequencing projects revealed that less than half of the genes for natural product biosynthesis of a microorganism have a known product, the huge potential of this genomic-guided strategy becomes apparent. It enables us to access a tremendous source of new biologically active metabolites by focusing on biosynthesis genes revealed in genomic sequences.
The Gross group applies this concept mainly to bacteria of the genus Pseudomonas. These microorganisms are known to produce structurally diverse and bioactive compounds, possess an intriguing biosynthetic machinery and are, according to their genomic data, still underexplored. As many whole sequencing projects are underway, we continue to convert genomic data into new bioactive chemical compounds and gain new insights in biosynthesis, ecology and bacterial physiology.