I am interested in understanding the mechanisms behind host-microbe interactions, and how this knowledge can be exploited in a applied manner. Host-associated bacteria are often involved with host protection and may therefore be a source of novel antimicrobial compounds. The main focus of my PhD project is to find new antimicrobial compounds produced from bacteria associated with social spiders (Stegodyphus dumicola). These social spiders are highly inbred, and thus show low genetic variation. Yet, they are ecologically and evolutionarily successfully, and despite their large population density, are rarely affected by pathogen attack. This indicates that their microbiome may play a key role in protection against diseases.
To test this statement, I aim at
(I) isolating bacteria from these spiders using innovative isolation strategies;
(II) testing the isolates for antimicrobial activity, determine the chemical composition of found antimicrobial compounds, and identify biosynthesis pathways;
(III) finding bacterial symbionts and test the predicted key functions in experimental settings.