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Identification of novel genetic mechanisms required for bacterial resistance to antimicrobial peptides

Description

The study of bacterial resistance to antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) is a significant area of interest as these peptides have the potential to be developed into alternative drug therapies to combat microbial pathogens. AMPs represent a class of host-mediated factors that

The study of bacterial resistance to antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) is a significant area of interest as these peptides have the potential to be developed into alternative drug therapies to combat microbial pathogens. AMPs represent a class of host-mediated factors that function to prevent microbial infection of their host and serve as a first line of defense. To date, over 1,000 AMPs of various natures have been predicted or experimentally characterized. Their potent bactericidal activities and broad-based target repertoire make them a promising next-generation pharmaceutical therapy to combat bacterial pathogens. It is important to understand the molecular mechanisms, both genetic and physiological, that bacteria employ to circumvent the bactericidal activities of AMPs. These understandings will allow researchers to overcome challenges posed with the development of new drug therapies; as well as identify, at a fundamental level, how bacteria are able to adapt and survive within varied host environments. Here, results are presented from the first reported large scale, systematic screen in which the Keio collection of ~4,000 Escherichia coli deletion mutants were challenged against physiologically significant AMPs to identify genes required for resistance. Less than 3% of the total number of genes on the E. coli chromosome was determined to contribute to bacterial resistance to at least one AMP analyzed in the screen. Further, the screen implicated a single cellular component (enterobacterial common antigen, ECA) and a single transporter system (twin-arginine transporter, Tat) as being required for resistance to each AMP class. Using antimicrobial resistance as a tool to identify novel genetic mechanisms, subsequent analyses were able to identify a two-component system, CpxR/CpxA, as a global regulator in bacterial resistance to AMPs. Multiple previously characterized CpxR/A members, as well as members found in this study, were identified in the screen. Notably, CpxR/A was found to transcriptionally regulate the gene cluster responsible for the biosynthesis of the ECA. Thus, a novel genetic mechanism was uncovered that directly correlates with a physiologically significant cellular component that appears to globally contribute to bacterial resistance to AMPs.

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Date Created
2013

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Plasmodium population structure in the context of malaria control and elimination

Description

Malaria is a vector-borne parasitic disease affecting tropical and subtropical regions. Regardless control efforts, malaria incidence is still incredible high with 219 million clinical cases and an estimated 660,000 related deaths (WHO, 2012). In this project, different population genetic approaches

Malaria is a vector-borne parasitic disease affecting tropical and subtropical regions. Regardless control efforts, malaria incidence is still incredible high with 219 million clinical cases and an estimated 660,000 related deaths (WHO, 2012). In this project, different population genetic approaches were explored to characterize parasite populations. The goal was to create a framework that considered temporal and spatial changes of Plasmodium populations in malaria surveillance. This is critical in a vector borne disease in areas of low transmission where there is not accurate information of when and where a patient was infected. In this study, fragment analysis data and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) from South American samples were used to characterize Plasmodium population structure, patterns of migration and gene flow, and discuss approaches to differentiate reinfection vs. recrudescence cases in clinical trials. A Bayesian approach was also applied to analyze the Plasmodium population history by inferring genealogies using microsatellites data. Specifically, fluctuations in the parasite population and the age of different parasite lineages were evaluated through time in order to relate them with the malaria control plan in force. These studies are important to understand the turnover or persistence of "clones" circulating in a specific area through time and consider them in drug efficacy studies. Moreover, this methodology is useful for assessing changes in malaria transmission and for more efficiently manage resources to deploy control measures in locations that act as parasite "sources" for other regions. Overall, these results stress the importance of monitoring malaria demographic changes when assessing the success of elimination programs in areas of low transmission.

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Date Created
2014

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Comparative genomics and novel bioinformatics methodology applied to the green anole reveal unique sex chromosome evolution

Description

In species with highly heteromorphic sex chromosomes, the degradation of one of the sex chromosomes can result in unequal gene expression between the sexes (e.g., between XX females and XY males) and between the sex chromosomes and the autosomes. Dosage

In species with highly heteromorphic sex chromosomes, the degradation of one of the sex chromosomes can result in unequal gene expression between the sexes (e.g., between XX females and XY males) and between the sex chromosomes and the autosomes. Dosage compensation is a process whereby genes on the sex chromosomes achieve equal gene expression which prevents deleterious side effects from having too much or too little expression of genes on sex chromsomes. The green anole is part of a group of species that recently underwent an adaptive radiation. The green anole has XX/XY sex determination, but the content of the X chromosome and its evolution have not been described. Given its status as a model species, better understanding the green anole genome could reveal insights into other species. Genomic analyses are crucial for a comprehensive picture of sex chromosome differentiation and dosage compensation, in addition to understanding speciation.

In order to address this, multiple comparative genomics and bioinformatics analyses were conducted to elucidate patterns of evolution in the green anole and across multiple anole species. Comparative genomics analyses were used to infer additional X-linked loci in the green anole, RNAseq data from male and female samples were anayzed to quantify patterns of sex-biased gene expression across the genome, and the extent of dosage compensation on the anole X chromosome was characterized, providing evidence that the sex chromosomes in the green anole are dosage compensated.

In addition, X-linked genes have a lower ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous substitution rates than the autosomes when compared to other Anolis species, and pairwise rates of evolution in genes across the anole genome were analyzed. To conduct this analysis a new pipeline was created for filtering alignments and performing batch calculations for whole genome coding sequences. This pipeline has been made publicly available.

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2016