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RESEARCH

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CONTACT-DEPENDENT SECRETION SYSTEMS

Our lab focuses on the type 4 secretion system (T4SS) and type 6 secretion system (T6SS). Both T4SS and T6SS are employed by a wide variety of bacteria to deliver biomolecules into neighboring cells. The T4SS notably mediates horizontal gene transfer between bacterial cells through conjugative transfer of DNA, while the T6SS is used by bacteria to deliver toxic effectors into adjacent bacterial or eukaryotic cells. We are interested in how these systems mediate interactions within bacterial populations.

VISUALIZATION OF BACTERIAL COMPETITION

Using fluorescence microscopy, we can visualize inter-bacterial competition. Bacteria species or strains with distinct T4SS or T6SS behaviors can be differentially labeled and tracked in real time. Specific gene modifications in these bacteria can than be directly correlated with changed in larger population dynamics and bacterial community organization.

ENGINEERING SECRETION SYSTEMS TO DELIVER HETEROLOGOUS CARGO

A defining feature of the T6SS is its ability to deliver protein cargo across target cell membranes without the need for a specific target cell receptor. This property enables T6SSs to deliver cargo in both bacteria and eukaryotic cells. Furthermore, secretion substrates can be modularly swapped between organisms opening the door for engineered T6SSs that can deliver cargos with activity tailored toward specific cell types.