Group Photo of Boudreau Lab

Glycosphingolipids from the Soil Microbiome, Understanding Structure and Biosynthesis

Project Description:

Research in the Boudreau lab focuses on bacterial natural products chemistry. Bacteria are found in every environment on Earth and they occupy diverse ecological niches. To thrive under challenging circumstances they have evolved complex biosynthetic pathways to produce a multitude of small molecules that afford them the ability to attack other microbes, communicate with their symbiotic partners, and survive environmental stressors. Understanding the structure and function of these natural products can help us understand the biology of bacteria, sometimes these molecules can also be appropriated as new medicines or chemical tools. For our GlyCORE project, we are interested in exploring the biology of bacteria which produce glycosphingolipids. Glycosphingolipids, such as α-Galactosylceramide (α-Gal), are agonists for CD1d-based signaling of the immune system, where changes in the sugar head group play a profound role in the immune response. With a desire to isolated novel glycosphingolipids that might drive different responses in the immune system, we will screen soil samples for the presence of Sphingomonadales bacteria, known producers of these lipids. By conducting both mass spectrometry-based fragmentation analysis of the lipids and whole genome sequencing of the producer, we will be able to pair these data sets using a “glycogenomic” approach that allows us to identify key genes involved in the biosynthesis which can be targeted for genetic manipulation to change the profile of glycosphingolipids produced by these organisms.

Contact Information:

Boudreau Photo

Dr. Paul D. Boudreau 
Assistant Professor of Pharmacognosy Assistant
   and Research Professor in the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Faser Hall 405


Associated Personnel:

Mohammed Ahmed 
Graduate Student/Research Assistant

Tahir Ali 
Graduate Student/Research Assistant

Nathan Williams
Graduate Student/Research Assistant