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A fishy tale of microbes - Microbial ecology of bacterial trimethylamine production across disparate environments

Thursday 16 May 2019, 1.00PM

Speaker(s): Dr Eleanor Jameson, University of Warwick

Trimethylamine (TMA) is a key bacterial metabolite produced from the breakdown of quaternary amines as a carbon source. Bacterial TMA production has wide reaching implications for humans, it is linked to both global-scale climate active gas production and individual human health. TMA formation is linked to methanogenesis in coastal sediments and in the human gut it plays a role in cardiovascular disease. The same key genes and pathways for the production of TMA can be detected across oceans and are common in the human gut.

Choline and glycine betaine (GBT) are important quaternary amines and play important biological roles in the marine environment. Anaerobic microorganisms use choline and GBT as a carbon and energy source and convert it to the methylated amine TMA. TMA has the potential to affect global climate and is readily degraded to methane, an important climate-active gas.

In the human gut Choline and Carnitine are major constituents of dairy, eggs and meat, essential for brain function and cellular integrity, but we may be competing with our microbiome for them. Dietary Choline and Carnitine degradation leads to TMA production, which has been linked to atherosclerosis, kidney disease, liver disease and obesity.

We are starting to understand the microbes and functional pathways involved in TMA production and its implications for us. The better our understanding of these ecosystems the greater our chance of being able to influence them for our benefit.

Location: Dianna Bowles Lecture Theatre (K018)