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University of Wisconsin-Madison

VIRTUAL: 2021 Hutchinson Lecture – “The Role of Symbioses in Natural Product Discovery: Discoveries from Bacterial Symbionts of Shipworms” – Margo Haygood, PhD




All-Division Colloquium

2021 C. Richard Hutchinson Lecture

  • Margo Haygood, PhD
  • University of Utah, Department of Medicinal Chemistry

The Role of Symbioses in Natural Product Discovery: Discoveries from Bacterial Symbionts of Shipworms 

Symbioses between bacteria and animals are common in the marine environment. Hosts benefit from nutritional support, bioluminescence and defensive compounds provided by bacteria. Shipworms, mollusks related to clams, burrow into and consume wood and are the major consumers of wood in the sea.  They host mulitiple intracellular bacterial symbionts in their gills that fix nitrogen and provide cellulases for wood digestion. Unlike many intracellular symbionts, shipworm symbionts can be cultivated in the laboratory. We have begun to explore this group as a source of novel natural products, which may play a role in defense of the host and be useful drug leads. Because they evolved within a host they are likely to be benign and well-adapted to activity and distribution in the host. By surveying genomes of cultivated strains and comparing them with gill metagenomes we find that our isolate collection represents the endogenous communities fully, and covers the abundant, novel, natural product pathways observed in the metagenomes well. Few of the numerous pathways observed are similar to those of known natural products. We have isolated and characterized several promising antimicrobial compounds with low cytotoxicity: tartralons, butuanimides and turnercyclamycins. The latter have potent activity against Acinetobacter baumannii (including drug resistant strains), a pathogen with few treatment options. Thus, symbionts of shipworms are a promising source that will yield new molecules and ultimately new drugs

Margo Haygood is a Research Professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Utah. She received a bachelor’s degree in History and Science at Harvard University, and a PhD in Marine Biology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. She served as a Scientific Officer at the Office of Naval Research, a Professor of Marine biology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, a Distinguished Professor of Enviromental and Biomolecular Systems at Oregon Health and Sciences University before moving to the University of Utah.

Hosted by Drug DISCOVERY – Jason Kwan

The C. Richard Hutchinson Lecture is intended to celebrate and recognize careers dedicated to contemporary research and major advances in natural product discovery and development.

To obtain the Webex link for this seminar, contact Debra King at

About the annual C. Richard Hutchinson Lecture

Friday, October 8, 2021
3:30 PM – 4:30 PM


This event is brought to you by: Pharmaceutical Sciences Division