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Bio prof wins $362K from NIH to study pathogens

By Randall S. Barton on July 07, 2015 12:00 AM

POTENTATE OF PATHOGENS. Prof. Jay Mellies wins NIH grant to study a sinister protein in E. coli.

Prof. Jay Mellies [biology 1999-] has won a two-year grant for $362,769 from the National Institutes of Health for a project entitled “Pch Super Family Regulators of Gram-Negative Pathogens”

Prof. Mellies will investigate a key regulatory protein that enables the pathogen E. coli to cause disease in children. The protein, called Pch, controls niche adaptation—how the bacterium can outcompete other members of the microbial community in the small intestine and manipulate the host immune system to its own advantage. 

Pch proteins are found in several medically important bacteria, including SalmonellaShigella and Klebsiella, and thus a greater understanding of the Pch family of proteins could lead to novel therapies. Prof. Mellies aims to understand how Pch proteins function on a molecular level.

Previously Mellies has studied the effects of zinc on another sinister pathogen, enteropathogenic E. coli (known as EPEC), one of the leading causes of diarrhea in the developing world.