Dr. Tal Luzzatto Knaan
Department of Marine Biology
Functional Metabolomics and Marine Natural Products Tal Luzzatto labNatural products, are small molecules produced by an organism and have various biological roles in nature. Some serve as regulators of cellular processes, some as communication signals and some as defensive molecules that may be utilized in agriculture, biotechnology and medicine. Natural products have an incredibly long history. Traditionally, natural products from plants, animals and microorganisms were the source of virtually all medicinal treatments from folklore and tribal medicine to the era of antibiotics. The marine environment is highly prolific and treasure trove for novel chemistry for potential drug discovery that is largely understudied. We use functional metabolomics approach to explore the spatial and temporal patterns of small molecules to better understand their functional role in marine biological systems. This approach includes the characterization of the chemical space, the targeting of specific molecules to the biosynthesis and regulation. Microbes Microbes have an immense effect on the wellbeing of virtually all living organisms. Microbes are highly social and exist in complex communities with thousands of other organisms, where they engage in a myriad of interactions that are mediated by the exchange of molecules. The marine environment presents unexplored interaction and thus unexplored chemistry. Mining the chemistry in marine microbes is in the frontline of bioprospecting for the next generation of antibiotics. We apply mass spectrometry-based metabolomics, transcriptomics and genomics to correlate the chemotype to phenotype for the discovery of compounds and new biological functions. Marine plants Like land plants, marine plants are considered to be an overwhelming source of natural products, that act to protect and benefit the plant to thrive in its environment, however are less explored in that context. Marine plants such as algae (blue-green algae and seaweeds) seagrasses and mangrove plants also have an immense ecological role as primary producers in oceans, therefore understanding their metabolomic capacity is of great interest. The composition on natural products is very much dependent on the environmental conditions in a given niche. Hence, key questions we will be interested to ask are: What natural products are produced by the plant? When and where are they expressed? What are their biological/ecological roles? And how can we benefit from them?