RSC Advances Emerging Investigators series 2021 – Author spotlight

Welcome to our Emerging Investigator Series 2021. This series showcases some of the very best work from chemists in the early stages of their independent careers. In keeping with the theme of RSC Advances as a cross-cutting chemistry journal, in this inaugural issue with the help of our Series Editor Professor James Batteas, 23 papers were published as part of the collection spanning the breadth of chemistry on topics ranging from the development and application of analytical tools and devices for chemical analysis, to the design and synthesis of bioactive materials for disease treatments, to catalysis and synthesis of new materials. You can read all about the contributions in this accompanying Editorial, prepared by the 2021 Series Editor James Batteas.

We would like to take this opportunity to highlight an author from the series, Dr. Christine Beemelmanns. We interviewed Christine to find out more about her area of research and her contribution to the series.

GNPS-guided discovery of xylacremolide C and D, evaluation of their putative biosynthetic origin and bioactivity studies of xylacremolide A and B
Felix Schalk, Janis Fricke, Soohyun Um, Benjamin H. Conlon, Hannah Maus, Nils Jäger, Thorsten Heinzel, Tanja Schirmeister, Michael Poulsen and Christine Beemelmanns
RSC Adv., 2021, 11, 18748-18756

Dr. Beemelmanns studied Chemistry at the RWTH Aachen. She then went to Japan for a one year research stay in the group of Prof.  Sodeoka at RIKEN. Back in Germany she worked at the FU Berlin with Prof. Reißig and received her PhD in Organic Chemistry. She then worked another six month in Japan at the University of Tokyo under the supervision of Prof K. Suzuki and joined shortly afterwards the group of Prof. Clardy at Harvard Medical School (Boston) in 2011. End of 2013, she received an offer from the Hans-Knöll Institute (HKI), where she established the Leibniz Junior Research Group in the field of Natural Products Chemistry and Chemical Biology. In 2021 she accepted a call from the Leipzig University for a Professorship Biochemistry of Microbial Physiology. Her research combines different aspects of chemical ecology and organic and natural product chemistry and aims to chemically and functionally characterize microbial signaling and defense molecules in different symbiotic model systems. By analyzing coevolved microbial interactions, unprecedented chemical core structures with potential pharmaceutical application are likely to appear.

Could you briefly explain the focus of your article to the non-specialist (in one or two sentences only) and why it is of current interest?

We are currently facing depleted antibiotic drug pipelines on a global scale. Our research article describes our quest to identify novel antimicrobials from termite symbionts and how they might be made.

How big an impact could your results potentially have?

Our chemical study motivated us to sequence the genome of the producing fungal species and related species. Our first genome mining result allowed us to interlink newly identified natural products with their putative biosynthetic origin and results point towards a promiscuous biosynthetic machinery present within certain fungal lineages.

Could you explain the motivation behind this study?

We were intrigued by the finding that microbes produce most often a bunch of structurally-related products of a promiscuous biosynthetic machinery. Here, we showcase the structural diversity of the natural product family xylacremolide and relate the structural diversity to their biosynthetic origin.

In your opinion, what are the key design considerations for your study?

It is important to carefully mine metabolomic datasets, and if necessary revisit these datasets if novel and more powerful methodologies become available.

Which part of the work towards this paper proved to be most challenging?

It is very challenging to elucidate the ecological function of isolated produced natural products. Here, we propose that the identified natural products might act as histone deacetylase inhibitors and show their antifungal activities. This suggests that this compound class might act as modulators of transcription and thus developmental processes maybe even within the producer organism.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

Fungal symbionts have undergone multiple adaptions strategies to survive within a highly evolved social insect system. I am very excited about elucidating the genomic and also the metabolic adaptation strategies.

How has your research evolved from your first article to this particular article?

Starting from classical natural product chemistry, we have spearheaded the fungus-fungus interaction-based discovery approaches, which are more and more complemented by comparative genome mining approaches.

What is the next step? What work is planned?

We are currently analyzing the abundance and diversity of the identified biosynthetic pathways to understand their origin but also the reason for their promiscuity. We are currently mining the obtained whole genome data to pin-point biosynthetic pathways to the identified structures.

Why did you want to publish in RSC Advances?

RSC Advances is a well-known peer-reviewed journal of the Royal Chemical Society and allows rapid open-access publication for a fair price.

What are your thoughts on open access publishing?

My research group and collaborators benefit from open access publishing and I support publishing open access.

RSC Advances Royal Society of Chemistry

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