Kay replied that he and co-lead author Tamao Saito, PhD., a scientist on sabbatical in his lab, had also focused on these unusual type III PKS genes following the recently completed final assembly and annotation of the entire Dictyostelium genome, which was carried out by a worldwide collaboration of many scientists, including the Kay group.
Working independently, Saito and Kay had deleted the Dictyostelium gene for Steely2. Not only could the resulting "deficient" slime molds not make DIF-1 but they couldn't construct the rescue tower, which was exactly the biological corroboration that the Noel lab wanted to hear. The two labs pooled data and now publish their work as one, very complete story while continuing to collaborate on the chemical diversity found in this fascinating organism that crawls around on the forest floor.
Says Noel, who is a professor in the Jack H. Skirball Center for Chemical Biology and Proteomics at Salk, "This is a wonderful example of where egos get pushed aside about who did what and instead, as a scientific community, groups come together to address a fundamental question in biology. In the process, we collectively discovered an efficient chemical factory in Dicytostelium cells that informs us about how to modify similar systems used in other organisms to produce important medicines from nature."
For Noel the problem is to understand biocomplexity at a level traditionally ignored - the plethora of natural chemicals found throughout nature. Organisms use chemicals as a means of interacting with their surroundings and mankind has exploited this fact to discover the vast majority of pharmaceuticals used
Contact: Gina Kirchweger