Pieter Dorrestein uses mass spectrometry to eavesdrop on the molecular conversations between microbes and their world. To produce the image, researchers swabbed every surface in the room, including the people, several hundred times, then analysed the swabs with mass spectrometry to identify the chemicals present.
Pieter C. Dorrestein, Ph.D.
Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Departments of Pharmacology and Pediatrics
Director, Collaborative Mass Spectrometry Innovation Center
Co-Director, Institute for Metabolomics Medicine
Telephone: (858) 534-6607
Our work aims to develop new mass spectrometry based methods to understand the chemistry of microbes, our microbiome and their ecological niche. In short, we develop tools that translate the chemical language between cells. This research requires the understanding of (microbial) genomics, proteomics, imaging mass spectrometry, genome mining, enzymology, small molecules structure elucidation, bioactivity screening, antibiotic resistance and an understanding of small molecule structure elucidation methods. The collaborative mass spectrometry innovation center that he directs is well equipped and now has twelve mass spectrometers, that are used in the studies to investigate capture cellular chatter (e.g. metabolic exchange), metabolomics, metabolism and to develop methods to characterize natural products. These tools are used to defining the spatial distribution of natural products in 2D, 3D and in some cases real-time. Areas of recent research directions are capturing mass spectrometry knowledge to understand the microbiome, non invasive drug metabolism monitoring, informatics of metabolomics, microbe-microbe, microbe-immune cells, microbe-host, stem cell-cancer cell interactions and diseased vs. non-disease model organisms and the development of strategies for mass spectrometry based genome mining and to detect and structurally characterize metabolites through crowd source annotation of molecular information on the Global Natural Products Social Molecular Networking at http://gnps.ucsd.edu through the NIH supported center for computational mass spectrometry that is co-developed with Nuno Bandeira.