French National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS)
French National Museum of Natural History (MNHN)
Unit Communication Molecules and Adaptation of Microorganisms (MCAM)

CNRS Principal Investigator
Group Leader, Molecules of Defence and Communication in Microbial Ecosystems

CP 54, 57 rue Cuvier
75005 Paris

+33 1 40 79 57 91



Background and expertise of the representative

Yanyan Li enters CNRS as a principal investigator in 2009 and leads the group of Molecules of Defence and Communication in Microbial Ecosystems composed of 11 permanent staffs since 2014. Her research is on bacterial antimicrobial peptides with a special focus on complex ribosomally-synthesized and posttranslationally-modified peptides, aiming to understand their structural diversity, biosynthesis, mode of action and ecological functions as well as to apply bioengineering principles for bioactive peptides development. Via fruitful collaboration with microbiologists, her research currently led to two intention disclosures and patents on next generation antimicrobials. Yanyan Li is actively involved in the French networks of antimicrobial peptides (CNRS working group GdR “Multiple functions of antimicrobial peptides”) and microbial natural products (GdRi “Integrative natural product chemistry”). She has been awarded a Young Researcher Fund from the French National Research Agency (ANR, 2011-2015), several CNRS funds and public-private collaboration contracts. She currently co-authored 23 publications in SCI-indexed journals with h-factor of 13.

Organisation profile

The French National Museum of Natural History (MNHN), one of the largest museums in the world, has five missions: research, collection, higher education, expertise and dissemination of knowledge. It is an excellence research centre dedicated to fundamental and applied environmental sciences, aiming to understand the evolution and dynamics of biodiversity as well as the human impact on Nature over time and at different scales. The MNHN provides a propitious environment and encourages to use the One Health concept to address great societal challenges related to environment and health.

The MNHN-CNRS joint research unit “Communication Molecules and Adaptation of Microorganisms” (MCAM) constitutes a unique pluridisciplinary scientific pole at MNHN and central Paris area devoted to the study of microorganisms and conducting research at the interface of chemistry and biology. It is composed of 58 permanent staffs and groups its research into four themes from molecular to the ecosystem levels: 1) chemistry and ecology of microbial natural products; 2) diversity and evolution of microorganisms; 3) symbiotic relationship and 4) interaction microorganisms-environment/ecotoxicology. Natural product chemistry and chemical ecology are strong components of the unit, being present in every research theme. Multiple model microorganisms and ecosystems are studied in the unit including bacteria (e.g actinobacteria, cyanobacteria), archaea, fungi, marine holobionts, algae, free-living and parasitic protists. The outcome of the unit’s research provides fundamental knowledge of the molecular mechanisms of microbial communication and adaptation to their environments, from which stems innovative solutions to key challenges such as emerging infectious diseases, antimicrobial resistances and aqua ecosystem sustainability. The unit implements a positive policy towards technology transfer and fills a great number of invention disclosures and patents. The unit hosts six enriched collections, including protists, zooparasitic nematodes, porifera, microalgae/cyanobacteria and chemicals/extracts libraries, for reference and research purposes.

Contribution to the network

Yanyan Li will participate in the network by contributing her scientific expertise on natural product biosynthesis and discovery, particularly in the field of complex ribosomally synthesized and posttranslationally modified peptides, based on an ecology-driven concept. Moreover, she will contribute to connect the related French communities to the network, notably the antimicrobial peptides one that consists of research groups from diverse backgrounds (microbiology, immunology, biochemistry, structural biology etc.), hospital references centres and industries. Dr. Li will also provide access to the national chemical library and living collections hosted in the MCAM unit and MNHN.