Northwestern Events Calendar

Jan
20
2022

M-I Bacteriology Faculty Candidate - Demystifying Bacterial “Dark Matter”: Uncharacterized Genes in Enterococcus faecalis Mediate Biofilm Formation and Gastrointestinal Tract Colonization

When: Thursday, January 20, 2022
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM Central

Where: Robert H Lurie Medical Research Center, Baldwin Auditorium, 303 E. Superior, Chicago, IL 60611 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Cynthia Naugles   (312) 503-0489

Group: Department of Microbiology-Immunology Seminars/Events

Category: Lectures & Meetings

Description:

Speaker -  Julia WIllett, PhD

NIH K99 Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Minnesota Medical School, Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Topic

Bacteria are ubiquitous in nature and are essential components of healthy commensal microbiomes, but antibiotic-resistant pathogens pose a significant public health threat.  Compounding the difficulty in understanding bacterial behavior in health and disease are uncharacterized genes, or the ~30% of bacterial gene products with no known function.  In diverse bacteria, experiments like RNAseq and TnSeq have revealed that many of these “dark matter” genes are important for survival in biologically relevant conditions, including biofilms, infection models, during interbacterial competition, and after exposure to antibiotics.  Using the Gram-positive commensal and pathogenic bacterium Enterococcus faecalis, I created a “phenotype to function” workflow and identified nearly 100 uncharacterized genes required for biofilm formation and fitness in the gastrointestinal tract.  These E. faecalis genes have predicted roles in cell wall maintenance, cell division, aggregation, production of virulence factors, and interbacterial interactions.  Here, I present small, medium, and large-scale approaches for combining bacterial genetics with computational predictions of structure and function in order to discover gene function in commensal and pathogenic bacteria.  New approaches for genome-scale discovery of bacterial gene function will advance our understanding of pathogenesis, basic microbiology, and how bacteria interact with the immune system, driving new methodologies to combat the rise of antibiotic resistance and improve human health. 

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