Exploring functional landscapes of the human gut microbiome

In this Sustainable Energy Seminar, Dr. Ophelia Venturelli, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, Bacteriology, and Chemical and Biological Engineering, will discuss how understanding the dynamics of microbiomes can help design microbial communities to support health and environmental goals.

Abstract:  Microbial communities are critical determinants of a wide range of environments ranging from the human gastrointestinal tract, plant rhizosphere and extreme environments such as hydrothermal vents. A myriad of unknown and complex abiotic and biotic interactions dictates the dynamics and functional activities of microbial communities. The human gut microbiome is a dense and diverse microbial ecosystem that shapes human physiology, nutrition, and behavior. Key community-level functions performed by gut microbiota that impact human physiology include the production and degradation of key metabolites and colonization resistance to intestinal pathogens. In response to environmental perturbation or host dysfunction, the functional and compositional state of the gut microbiome can shift to an alternative state that negatively impacts human health. Developing the capability to predict and design the community-level functions of gut microbiota hold tremendous therapeutic potential. By combining high-throughput bottom-up assembly of human gut communities with computational modeling, we decipher the interaction networks shaping community dynamics and health-relevant functions. We exploit the data-driven models to design communities with desired behaviors including tailored metabolite profiles, enhanced resistance to invasion and optimized community diversity. Further, we are developing and applying ultrahigh-throughput methods to analyze single-cell heterogeneity within microbiomes to provide a deeper understanding of interactions and microbiome dynamics. In sum, microbial interactions can be engineered to design microbial communities with desired target functions and building microbiomes from the bottom-up is a powerful approach to exploring the structure-function landscapes of microbiomes.


This event is offered both in-person at the Wisconsin Energy Institute and online through Zoom Webinar. If attending online, registration is required. Click here to register for this and all other webinars as part of the Sustainable Energy Seminar series in Fall 2022.

1115 Wisconsin Energy Institute (and Online)
1552 University Ave.
Madison, WI 53726