Abstract: Series 114, Lecture 2

The Harvey Lectures Series 114 (2018—2019)

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Lecture #2: Thursday, November 15, 2018 — Watch Video of Lecture

Life Without Oxygen

Dianne K Newman, PhD

Dianne K Newman, PhD

Gordon M Binder/Amgen Professor of Biology and Geobiology
Allen V C Davis and Lenabelle Davis Leadership Chair, Center for Environmental Microbial Interactions
Executive Officer for Molecular Biology

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, CA

Dr Newman's Website

At the cellular level, humans are pretty dull when it comes to energy generation: we burn carbon and respire oxygen, and occasionally, ferment. Microorganisms, on the other hand, can generate energy from a remarkable array of substrates in the absence of oxygen using exotic forms of respiration, photosynthesis and fermentation. These diverse, anaerobic pathways have evolved over billions of years. Today, anaerobic microorganisms continue to thrive in unexpected habitats in surprising ways, including the human body. What are their strategies? What are their effects? How can understanding anaerobic metabolisms help us identify new ways to combat chronic infections? In this talk, I will address these questions with a few examples to illustrate how important life without oxygen has been and continues to be both for the Earth and its inhabitants. In particular, I will discuss how the opportunistic pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, utilizes a class of redox-active “antibiotics” to facilitate its survival and development.