Leao, Pedro

University of Porto (Portugal)

Pedro Leão is a Principal Investigator at CIIMAR (University of Porto, Portugal), where he heads the Cyanobacterial Natural Products research group. He graduated in Biochemistry at the University of Porto (2005) and obtained his PhD in the same University in 2010 where he studied the chemical ecology of cyanobacteria under the supervision of Vitor Vasconcelos. He then focused on the chemistry and biosynthesis of new natural products from marine cyanobacteria, and did postdoctoral stays at Scripps Oceanography, UCSD (with Bill Gerwick) and Harvard University (with Emily Balskus). In 2017 he was awarded an ERC Starting Grant and established his lab at CIIMAR. His research is focused on uncovering the rich chemistry and enzymology that is encoded in cyanobacterial genomes. 


Incorporation and modification of fatty acids in cyanobacterial secondary metabolism. 


Cyanobacteria are a phylum of photosynthetic bacteria from which over 1000 secondary metabolites have been reported. Many more await discovery, as revealed by genome-wide analysis of the phylum.  Adding to this, a large number of cyanobacterial natural products have potent biological activities and some are currently used in the clinic or are undergoing clinical trials. Hence, there are clear opportunities and motivation for natural product discovery in these organisms. Here, we will focus on our recent efforts towards the discovery of new cyanobacterial metabolites bearing fatty acid moieties. We will provide examples of how fatty acids are incorporated and modified by cyanobacteria in novel ways that generate highly unusual natural product scaffolds. 

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