Charting metabolic maps in the pursuit of new vaccines and antimicrobials

Charting metabolic maps in the pursuit of new vaccines and antimicrobials

News from CRG

Bacteria are versatile living organisms that can colonise a huge range of environments, hosts, or tissues within a host. Much of this success is thanks to their metabolic plasticity, which has been shaped by evolution over millions of years.

Microbial metabolic pathways can be exploited for industrial applications, such as using bacteria to dye jeans with their trademark indigo hue. It is also increasingly important in healthcare, with previous studies linking microbiome metabolism with the human body’s ability to absorb therapeutic drugs.

Current approaches to charting microbial metabolic pathways are expensive, tedious and time consuming, hindering the development of new applications such as vaccines or antimicrobial substances. New tools are needed to build an accurate map of all the chemical reactions that take place in a particular strain of bacteria with no dead ends or futile loops.

In a study published in the journal Cell Reports, researchers at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), describe a new method for determining active metabolic pathways in microbes using cutting-edge techniques from genomics and proteomics.

The researchers first tested their methods by mapping the metabolic pathways of Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a bacterium with a small genome that commonly causes mild infections of the respiratory system, and whose metabolism has been comprehensively documented in the past. Its active metabolic pathways agreed with experimental data.


Montero-Blay et al., 2020, Cell Reports 31, 107722 June 2, 2020. DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107722

More information:
CRG website