Microbial Sciences and Precision Medicine

An exemplar from the Microbial Science theme:

Investigating the epigenetic regulation of pneumococcal virulence.

Marco R. Oggioni, Dept. Genetics, Univ. Leicester, Christopher Bayliss, Dept. Genetics, Univ. Leicester Peter W Andrew, Dept. Infect. Immun. Inflammation, Univ. Leicester, Andrew Morozov, Dept. Mathematics, Univ. Leicester and External Collaborators James Paton, Univ. Adelaide, Australia and Mike Jennings, Griffith Univ., Australia

A novel phase variable epigenetic control system has been identified in bacteria, and most importantly, genetic switching could be correlated to changes in bacterial gene expression and pathogenesis of experimental infection. Mathematical modelling is an essential component of the interdisciplinary investigation into this novel bacterial regulatory mechanism with direct correlation to disease.

Dealing with a bacterium that has a six-phase variable regulatory systems is like being simultaneously confronted with six different bacteria; it gives them an unfair advantage, but knowing the genetic basis poses us in an optimal position to reinvestigate drug and vaccine efficacy for one of the most important human pathogens with the aim of enabling tailored treatment.

Key publications: Manso AS, MH Chai, JM Atack, L Furi, M De Ste Croix, R Haigh, C Trappetti, AD Ogunniyi, LK Shewell, M Boitano, TA Clark, J Korlach, M Blades, E Mirkes, AN Gorban, JC Paton, MP Jennings, MR Oggioni. A random six-phase switch regulates pneumococcal virulence via global epigenetic changes. Nature Communications. 2014;5:5055 doi: 10.1038/ncomms6055

Funded by MRC research grant MR/M003078/1, CN17510.

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