Identification of novel regulatory mechanisms that influence S. aureus virulence gene expression during growth in human serum.
The human bloodstream represents an important in vivo environment, which S. aureus uses to disseminate throughout the body. To further understand the complex changes in bacterial gene expression that accompany survival in blood, and to identify novel regulatory circuits, I have used state-of-the-art next generation DNA sequencing techniques to analyze methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA) growing in human serum. This analysis identified a number of uncharacterized transcription regulatory proteins that show large-scale changes in expression in human serum, suggesting they play a pivotal role in this environment. Furthermore, the use of RNA-seq for this analysis facilitated the identification of novel small regulatory RNA species (sRNA) that are uniquely expressed in human serum. I propose to further characterize these serum-specific sRNAs and transcription factors and determine their role during survival in human serum.
Research in my laboratory is focused on exploring the mechanisms that allow Staphylococcus aureus to cause disease in humans. Infections caused by S. aureus, and in particular those caused by the highly drug resistant form, methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA), are a growing problem in the United States and very few antibiotics remain effective in treating diseases caused by this bacteria. Understanding the pathogenesis of S. aureus is critical to aid the development of effective vaccines and treatments.