The Phelan Lab
@ CU Anschutz Medical Campus
CHEMICAL ECOLOGY OF MICROBIOMES
We aim to study the chemical ecology of environmental and host-derived microbiome communities by developing broadly accessible experimental approaches. We accomplish this goal by combining modern and classical tools and techniques from a variety of scientific fields, including chemistry, microbiology, cell biology, molecular biology, and biochemistry.
WHAT IS CHEMICAL ECOLOGY?
Chemical ecology is the study of the chemical interactions between organisms and their environment. One way microbes interact with their environment is through the secretion and detection of small molecules. Our research aims on characterizing the metabolites the microbiota produce when responding to external stimuli, such as pathogen invasion, pharmaceutical treatment, and alterations in host metabolism due to underlying disease.
WHAT DO WE DO?
The primary goal of our research is to elucidate the chemical crosstalk between microbes and between microbes and the host. Unfortunately, reproducible and accessible tools for large scale studies in chemical ecology are limited. Therefore, our first step is to develop the tools or processes to accomplish our experimental goals. After development, we rigorously test our methods by applying them to biological systems. Hypotheses generated from these discoveries are thoroughly investigated, leading to new knowledge, and aiding our design process.
WHAT TOOLS DO WE USE?
Our primary analysis tool is mass spectrometry based metabolomics. Metabolomics is the large scale study of all the small molecules in a system. We use metabolomics to create hypotheses about the role of specific metabolites in biological processes. These hypotheses are tested using a variety of techniques ranging from gene deletion to protein expression to cytotoxic assays.