Current Research Interests
Bacterial conjugation was discovered over 50 years ago and was attributed to the F or fertility factor a few years later. Early research showed that the F factor was a plasmid that assembled long structures called pili that were essential for transferring DNA from bacterial cell to bacterial cell. These pili were also the site of attachment of many bacteriophages, the most notable being f1 and its relatives. Many systems turn out to be related to F conjugation including the process that gives rise to tumours in plants and the secretion of toxins and other virulence factors by many enteropathogenic bacteria. These are now called type IV secretion systems with the F DNA transfer system representing a complex version that is capable of attaching to, and reeling in, suitable recipient cells. Her lab is interested in the regulation of conjugative transfer at three levels:
1. How does the plasmid co-ordinate its gene expression with that of its host?
2. How do repressed F plasmids cause and control epidemic spread?
3. What allows the F+ cell to sense that the pilus has interacted with a recipient cell leading to the immediate transfer of a single strand of DNA to the recipient?
We are also interested in understanding the structure of the pilus filament and its role in this signaling process by examining the mechanism of R17 (RNA) and f1 (DNA) F-pilus-specific phage infection.
Research OpportunitiesI currently have no available positions in my lab.