Our long-term research goal is to study the molecular mechanisms of how enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) causes disease. We have two main projects focusing on EPEC virulence gene regulation. The first area of study concerns the regulation of EPEC virulence factors, and mechanisms of control by a novel protein called Ler. Funding for this set of projects has included a three-year, NIH AREA grant (2R15AI47802-03).
A second project involves delineating the regulatory network controlling the initial stages of EPEC infection. The plasmid-encoded regulator, PerC, in addition to ler, controls a number of genes involved in niche adaptation. Thus, we are interested in how PerC confers a predicted selective advantage to the bacterium at the site of infection- the small intestine, and the molecular mechanism by which this small regulatory protein controls gene expression. Funding for this project has included an award from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust and an NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Award (1R21AI115193-01).
A third project in the laboratory focuses on isolating and characterizing environmental bacterial isolates that can degrade commercial plastics. With the growing problem of plastic pollution, both on land and in our oceans, we see the biodegradation of these waste products to be an important part of the solution to this global issue. For her senior thesis Morgan Vague (Reed ’18) isolated three Pseudomonads that degrade polyethylene terephthalate, or PET plastic, the material used for disposable water bottles. We are looking to devise pre-treatment strategies to make the degradation more rapid, and to gain a better understanding of the related biological and chemical processes. We are currently seeking funding for this exciting set of projects.
Lab Folks 2017/18
Research Associates: Amy Platenkamp, Morgan Vague Thesis Students: Eliotte Garling, Katie McPherson, Jethary Rader, and Trevor Soucy Independent Study: Colin Hawkinson