UMMS Affiliation

Program in Systems Biology; Department of Microbiology and Physiological Systems

Publication Date


Document Type



Bioinformatics | Environmental Microbiology and Microbial Ecology | Microbial Physiology


The Shank laboratory studies the chemical and physical interactions of microbes with each other and their hosts. Microbes live everywhere, and their activities can have profound impacts on their hosts as well as on ecosystem‐level processes. How microbes interact within these communities, however, remains largely unknown. We are fascinated by the idea that microbes are able to generate and secrete chemical cues (known as specialized or secondary metabolites) that can act as interspecies signals to influence the physiology and metabolism of their microbial neighbors, and thus contribute to the stability and functioning of complex microbial communities. Our research dissects these microbial interactions using traditional microbiology, fluorescent co-culture, bioinformatics, mass spectrometry imaging, and native-like microcosms. We aim to define the molecular basis of how microbial specialized metabolites impact bacterial cellular differentiation, discover chemical tools to kill and modulate pathogens, and dynamically visualize microbial interactions at the single-cell level. In doing so, we are gaining insights into microbial ecology. We are also identifying novel bioactive compounds as potential therapeutics and chemical tools to achieve our long-term goal of manipulating microbial communities to improve host health and the environment.

Presented virtually during the "New Faculty Talks" session at the 25th Annual University of Massachusetts Medical School Research Retreat 2020 on October 27, 2020.


microbial communities, metabolism, metabolites, physiology, microbial ecology

Rights and Permissions

Copyright © 2020 Shank. This is an open access document distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License, which permits copying and redistribution in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.

DOI of Published Version


Journal/Book/Conference Title

25th Annual University of Massachusetts Medical School Research Retreat 2020

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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