A new way to watch chemical warfare between bacteria is presented in a study published online this week in Nature Chemical Biology. These findings have implications in microbial ecology and antibacterial drug development.
Many currently used antibiotics were originally identified as natural products made by bacteria, such as penicillin. In their natural environment, bacteria also use these compounds as antibiotics against other types of bacteria that are competing for resources.
Now Pieter Dorrestein and colleagues have created a method to directly monitor the production and release of these compounds using imaging mass spectrometry ― a technique that yields a quantitative picture of which and how many chemicals are made to fight off a bacterial competitor. The method should significantly simplify the ability to study bacterial interactions and may provide new pathways to identify and develop antibacterial compounds.