Streptomyces NRP colours
Juan Pablo Gomez-Escribano, John Innes Centre
Most of the compounds we use as antibiotics, or that we transform into useful antibiotics, are obtained from soil-dwelling microbes called actinomycetes. At JIC on the Norwich Research Park we study Streptomyces coelicolor as a model to find out how actinomycetes make antibiotics. The blue, red and yellow-orange coloured antibiotics it makes are not clinically useful, but they facilitate the study of the genetics and chemistry of antibiotic production, opening a vast array of strategies and technologies to search, find, design and create new compounds that will help medicine to face the endless fight against infections. When the natural isolate of Streptomyces coelicolor is cultivated in the laboratory, it mainly makes the blue antibiotic, overshadowing all others (plates with blue ring); we need to use genetic manipulation to prevent the production of the blue antibiotic so that we can study how the red and yellow-orange ones are made (left plates). We can also trick the genetics to make much more antibiotic (deep-blue plates at the right). The dark green of the bottom plates is given by the spores of Streptomyces venezuelae, the maker of the important antibiotic chloramphenicol; and the light-green microbe in the centre plate is Streptomyces viridochromogenes. All together beautifully recreate the logo of the Norwich Research Park with their natural colours.