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Prospecting Novel Microbiomes for Antibiotic Compounds using Metagenomics and Genome Mining

Walker, Tim Ali Charles; (2021) Prospecting Novel Microbiomes for Antibiotic Compounds using Metagenomics and Genome Mining. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

There has been a void in the discovery and development of new antibiotic classes over the past four decades due, in part, to the traditional bioprospecting pipeline becoming inefficient from high compound rediscovery rates and high costs. The need for new antibiotic classes is urgent as antimicrobial drug resistant infections are now a major public health concern. Strategies such as exploring novel environments, use of next-generation sequencing, and metagenomics may reduce rediscovery rates and costs which could help accelerate lead discovery and encourage greater participation in bioprospecting. Whole genome-sequencing and analysis was used to characterise four bacterial strains (Y1-4) isolated from raw honey that were shown to have antibiotic activity. The isolates were identified as Bacillus and were closely related but distinctive strains with variations amongst their secondary metabolite profiles. All isolates contained a gene cluster homologous to AS- 48, a circular bacteriocin produced by Enterococcus faecalis, which has broad-spectrum antibiotic activity. To date, no example of this bacteriocin has been reported in Bacillus. This work demonstrated the value of whole-microbial genome sequencing for dereplication. A pipeline for the low-cost sequencing and assembly of bacterial genomes using Oxford Nanopore MinION was developed in order to produce contiguous and accurate genome assemblies for taxonomic and bioprospecting analysis. The pipeline developed used a combination of Nanopore draft assembly by Canu and polishing with RACON and Nanopolish, with final polishing with Illumina reads using Pilon. The Nanopore-only assembly of Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2) produced was contiguous and covered 98.9 % of reference. AntiSMASH analysis identified the full secondary metabolite profile of the genome through homology searches. However, indel rates were high (66.82 per 100 kbp) causing fragmented gene annotations which limited secondary metabolite structure prediction. Illumina read polishing reduced indels (2.03 per 100 kbp) and enabled accurate structure prediction from the identified biosynthetic pathways. This demonstrates that Nanopore sequencing can provide a viable dereplication strategy by detection of known biosynthetic pathways. Additionally, supplementation with Illumina sequencing can allow for structure prediction of biosynthetic pathways which could inform chemical extraction strategies for novel pathways. Nanopore sequencing was further utilised to characterise an antibiotic producing isolate (KB16) active against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus from the hot spring of the Roman Baths, UK. Genomic analysis showed KB16 to be highly related to Streptomyces canus and to contain 26 putative secondary metabolite gene clusters - some of which were potentially novel. One of the gene clusters was identified as encoding the antibiotic albaflavenone. Attempts to chemically identify the antibiotic produced by KB16 showed that it may produce multiple antimicrobial compounds. These findings demonstrate the value in prospecting underexplored environments such as the Roman Baths for microbially-derived antimicrobial leads. A PCR screen was used to amplify NRPS and PKS gene fragments from a human oral metagenome. Analysis of the fragments suggested that some are from uncharacterised gene clusters. Nanopore shotgun metagenomic sequencing was used to profile the water of the Roman Baths which revealed a diverse microbiome of species with reported metabolic characteristics that are in keeping with the known geochemistry of the waters and aligned with 16S rRNA analysis. Further analysis also identified putative heavy metal resistance genes which can be a co-marker for their metabolism and aligned with the chemical properties of the water. These findings demonstrate the potential value in these sites for bioprospecting whilst also giving insight that can inform bioprospecting strategies. The investigations also highlight the utility of Nanopore sequencing for taxonomic and functional gene profiling of environmental microbiomes. In combination these findings have all contributed information on novel environments, potential isolate leads, and cost-efficient methodologies to accelerate the discovery of microbially-derived antibiotics.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Prospecting Novel Microbiomes for Antibiotic Compounds using Metagenomics and Genome Mining
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > UCL School of Pharmacy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10127042
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