Dr. Marie Elliot

What is the overall goal of your research program? 

We work with Streptomyces bacteria, which are remarkably complicated microbes:  they are multicellular, have different ‘tissue’ types, and are little pharmaceutical factories  – they make more than 2/3 of known antibiotics, along with chemotherapeutics, immunosuppressants, fungicides, anti-parasitic agents.

Our goals are three-fold.

  • To understand the role played by cell surface proteins during the transition between different developmental stages.
  • To understand how the chromosome is organized in the cell, and how this organization contributes to antibiotic production. These studies will allow us to more effectively manipulate antibiotic production, and stimulate the synthesis of new antibiotics.
  • To understand the role of regulatory RNAs – and RNA metabolism – in controlling development and antibiotic production.

 

What would be one of your biggest research highlights?

I’m a bit of a nerd in that I get terribly excited about all aspects of our work!  Our discovery of the ‘chaplin’ proteins – a group of unusual proteins that are organized on the cell surface and promote cellular differentiation – was incredibly cool. We’ve now broadened our investigations into other cell surface proteins, and these are proving to be really interesting studies as well.  Another highlight was our discovery of a new protein that organizes the chromosome in Streptomyces (and their relatives) in a completely novel manner – this protein also significantly impacts both development and antibiotic production.  Finally, I love RNA-based regulation, and we have identified hundreds of new regulatory RNAs in the streptomycetes – figuring out how these work (and what controls their activity) is going to be a highlight for me for years to come!

 

How can we find out more information about the research you do?

Please check out the Elliot lab website: http://www.biology.mcmaster.ca/fcl/elliot/web/default.html

 

What are your main interests outside of research?

Outside of work, I do a lot of running – everything from track to roads, trails and mountains (although there aren’t too many of these in southern Ontario…).   I also do a fair bit of cycling – and have generally discovered that most outdoor activities (except golf) are a highly enjoyable way to spend free-time.