Michael G. Surette, PhD

Professor, Department of Medicine

Joint appointment to the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences

Canada Research Chair in Interdisciplinary Microbiome Research


Lab website:

twitter: @surette_m

Google+: +Mike Surette


Bacteria live almost exclusively in communities with other microorganisms, and often in association with multicellular hosts. These communities are capable of maintaining complex structural and functional stability over time, and exhibit fascinating properties of resiliency in response to environmental changes. This is a result of interactions between microbes and the environment and amongst members of the community. A multitude of chemical interactions occur in microbial communities where primary and secondary metabolites contribute to a wealth of interactions between organisms. The chemicals include a variety of nutrients, toxic or neutral metabolic byproducts, antibiotics, and cell-cell signaling molecules. These chemical and physical signals mitigate microbial relationship that can be competitive, cooperative or neutral, and thus are responsible for determining community structure. In turn, the surrounding community changes the microenvironment of individual cells that respond to chemical and environmental cues in a combinatorial manner.  Pathogens must contend with this complex ecology during infection.  For pathogens, these other microbes are the normal microbiota of the human host (the human microbiome).  The human microbiome is poorly defined and composed of thousands of organisms of which relatively few have been characterized.  We are working to define the normal microbiota and to understand the role of small molecule signaling in the ecology of the normal microbiota of the human host.

One of our primary areas of research investigates the role of normal flora-pathogen interactions in health and disease in the area of respiratory infections with a focus in cystic fibrosis.  A polymicrobial perspective on these infections has lead to identification of overlooked pathogens in airway disease as well as synergistic interactions between avirulent organisms and pathogens.  This is a fundamentally different view of airway infections and has lead to direct benefits to patients through altered treatment strategies.

  1. Wessels, JM, Lajoie, J, Vitali, D, Omollo, K, Kimani, J, Oyugi, J et al.. Association of high-risk sexual behaviour with diversity of the vaginal microbiota and abundance of Lactobacillus. PLoS ONE. 2017;12 (11):e0187612. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0187612. PubMed PMID:29095928 .
  2. Wu, RY, Määttänen, P, Napper, S, Scruten, E, Li, B, Koike, Y et al.. Non-digestible oligosaccharides directly regulate host kinome to modulate host inflammatory responses without alterations in the gut microbiota. Microbiome. 2017;5 (1):135. doi: 10.1186/s40168-017-0357-4. PubMed PMID:29017607 PubMed Central PMC5635512.
  3. Nadkarni, RR, Abed, S, Cox, BJ, Bhatia, S, Lau, JT, Surette, MG et al.. Functional Enterospheres Derived In Vitro from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells. Stem Cell Reports. 2017;9 (3):897-912. doi: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2017.07.024. PubMed PMID:28867347 PubMed Central PMC5599260.
  4. Whelan, FJ, Surette, MG. A comprehensive evaluation of the sl1p pipeline for 16S rRNA gene sequencing analysis. Microbiome. 2017;5 (1):100. doi: 10.1186/s40168-017-0314-2. PubMed PMID:28807046 PubMed Central PMC5557527.
  5. Shen, P, Whelan, FJ, Schenck, LP, McGrath, JJC, Vanderstocken, G, Bowdish, DME et al.. Streptococcus pneumoniae Colonization Is Required To Alter the Nasal Microbiota in Cigarette Smoke-Exposed Mice. Infect. Immun. 2017;85 (10):. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00434-17. PubMed PMID:28760931 PubMed Central PMC5607400.
  6. Whitney, JC, Peterson, SB, Kim, J, Pazos, M, Verster, AJ, Radey, MC et al.. A broadly distributed toxin family mediates contact-dependent antagonism between gram-positive bacteria. Elife. 2017;6 :. doi: 10.7554/eLife.26938. PubMed PMID:28696203 PubMed Central PMC5555719.
  7. Acosta, N, Whelan, FJ, Somayaji, R, Poonja, A, Surette, MG, Rabin, HR et al.. The Evolving Cystic Fibrosis Microbiome: A Comparative Cohort Study Spanning 16 Years. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2017;14 (8):1288-1297. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201609-668OC. PubMed PMID:28541746 .
  8. Svensson, SL, Behroozian, S, Xu, W, Surette, MG, Li, L, Davies, J et al.. Kisameet Glacial Clay: an Unexpected Source of Bacterial Diversity. MBio. 2017;8 (3):. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00590-17. PubMed PMID:28536287 PubMed Central PMC5442455.
  9. Pinto-Sanchez, MI, Hall, GB, Ghajar, K, Nardelli, A, Bolino, C, Lau, JT et al.. Probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 Reduces Depression Scores and Alters Brain Activity: A Pilot Study in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gastroenterology. 2017;153 (2):448-459.e8. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.05.003. PubMed PMID:28483500 .
  10. Heirali, AA, Workentine, ML, Acosta, N, Poonja, A, Storey, DG, Somayaji, R et al.. The effects of inhaled aztreonam on the cystic fibrosis lung microbiome. Microbiome. 2017;5 (1):51. doi: 10.1186/s40168-017-0265-7. PubMed PMID:28476135 PubMed Central PMC5420135.
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