Birgit Pruess

Associate Professor

Van Es 108a
701 231 7848


  • PhD from Ruhr-Universität Bochum Germany (1991).

Teaching Interests

I am currently teaching MICR 480 Bacterial Physiology and MICR 781 Advanced Bacterial Physiology and am involved in numerous other courses. Teaching and research are very closely interconnected. Data that are obtained from my own research (or the professional literature) will be included in the courses or given out as course projects for analysis. This will give the students first-hand experience with modern technology and analysis methods. All courses involve more assignments than tests and give the students the opportunity to improve many of those skills that they will need in their future careers. Many students decide to join my research lab after the course to further develop those skills.

One of the additional courses that I am involved with is BIOC 720 Scientific Integrity. This important course is team taught by 8 or 10 instructors in a case study style. The topics are in agreement with the requirements by the National Institutes of Health and include research with humans and animals, as well as intellectual property, collaboration, mentoring, and authorship/peer-review. Overall, my courses are designed so they prepare the students for all the challenges on an increasingly more difficult job market.

Research Interests

The currently ongoing research projects were recently broadcasted by the Fargo/Moorhead Forum Fargo/Moorhead Forum. We are developing novel strategies to prevent E. coli from forming biofilm in a variety of settings. Biofilms are a social form of bacteria, that form on numerous surfaces, such as teeth, medical supplies or food safety equipment (see picture to the right). An NIH funded project deals with the temporal and spatial expression of genes that contribute to the biofilm. Genes that will be expressed early will be proposed as targets for the development of novel biofilm prevention strategies. Genes that will be expressed at the outermost edge of the colony may serve as targets for the development of novel biofilm treatment options.

A second project is funded by the State Board of Research and Education and the ND Beef Commission and is targeted towards the development of a liquid spray that will reduce cell division, biofilm formation, and the virulence in bacteria that grow on the surface of beef. Over the course of the next few years, I expect a number of students at both, graduate and undergraduate level, to participate in this exciting project. If interested, please email me. I really enjoy the student supervision part of my work and like to hear from you.

The experimental projects are based upon the previous development of a network of transcriptional regulation in Escherichia coli that centers around the global regulator FlhD/FlhC. This work started with a book that I was invited to edit in 2005 and that introduced the global network (Prüß, 2005). As a continuation of the book, a review article combined these data into one network of transcriptional regulation, using the formation of biofilms as a connecting theme (Prüß et al., 2006). Together with Dr. Anne Denton from Computer Sciences, we developed a software for the analysis of such transcriptional networks (Besemann et al., 2006). In addition, we developed new pattern algorithms for the analysis of complex microarray (Denton et al., 2008) and biofilm (Prüβ et al., 2010) data. Both, the software and the algorithm facilitate the analysis of complex data, such as microarray data. This project is at the center of my research from which the experimental projects evolve.

Two of the past experimental projects relate to the regulation of virulence factors in E. coli and Yersinia enterocolitica. In E. coli, FlhD/FlhC and Aer affect genes of anaerobic respiration and sugar acid degradation, processes that are required as the bacterium adjusts to life in the intestine. We developed a murine animal model to study colonization of the intestine by E. coli and found that the aer mutant had a competitive disadvantage in colonizing the intestine (Horne et al., 2009). In Y. enterocolitica, we discovered a regulatory circuit that affects the expression of virulence factors through FlhD/FlhC and FliA (Horne and Prüß, 2006). In addition, we developed an avian animal model to study pathogenicity in Y. enterocolitica (Townsend et al., 2008). In this model, the flhD but not the fliA mutant exhibits a reduced lethality when compared to the wild-type strain. We believe that this is due to the lack of a functional type III secretion system in this mutant.

Awards and Honors

Larson/Yaggie Excellence in Research Award, Office of the Vice President for Agriculture and University Extension, 2006. William J. and Angelyn A. Austin Advising Award, Office of the Vice President for Agriculture and University Extension, 2010.

Other Interests

Dancing, biking, gardening, family and friends.

Selected Publications

  • Prüß, B. M. 2005. Global regulatory networks in enteric bacteria, published by Research Signpost, Trivandrum, India.
  • Horne, S.M., and B.M. Prüß. 2006. Global gene regulation in Yersinia enterocolitica: effect of FliA on the expression levels of flagellar and plasmid-encoded virulence genes. Arch. Microbiol. 185:115-126.
  • Prüβ , B.M., C. Besemann, A. Denton, and A.J. Wolfe. 2006. A complex transcription network controls the early stages of biofilm formation. J. Bacteriol. 188:3731-3739.
  • Besemann, C., A. Denton, N. Carr, and B.M. Prüß. 2006. BISON: Bio-Interface for the Semi-global analysis Of Network patterns. Source Code for Biol. and Med. 1:8.
  • Townsend, M.K., J. Iyer, N. Carr, S.M. Horne, P.S. Gibbs, and B.M. Prüβ. 2008. Phenotypes of a Yersinia enterocolitica flhD mutant include reduced lethality in a chicken embryo model. BMC Microbiol. 8:12.
  • Denton, A.M., J. Wu, M.K. Townsend, P. Sule, and B.M. Prüβ. 2008. Relating gene expression data on two-component systems to functional annotations in Escherichia coli. BMC Bioinformat. 9:294.
  • Sule, P., T. Wadhawan, A.J. Wolfe, and B.M. Prüß. 2008. Use of the BacTiter-GloTM assay to study bacterial attachment. Promega Notes 99:19-21.
  • Horne, S.M., K. Mattson, and B.M. Prüβ. 2009. Phenotypes of an Escherichia coli aer mutant include a reduced ability to colonize the streptomycin-treated mouse large intestine. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek Internat. J. of Gen. and Mol. Microbiol. 95:149-158.
  • Sule, P., T. Wadhawan, N.J. Carr, S.M. Horne, A.J. Wolfe, and B.M. Prüβ. 2009. A combination of assays reveals biomass differences in biofilms formed by Escherichia coli mutants. Lett. Appl. Microbiol. 49:299-304.
  • Sule, P., and B.M. Prüβ. 2009. Regulation of the LEE pathogenicity island of Escherichia coli O157:H7. Rec. Res. Developm. Microbiol.11:43-59.
  • Wadhawan, T., J.M. McEvoy, B.M. Prüß, and E. Khan. 2010. Assessing tetrazolium and ATP assays for rapid in-situ viability quantification of bacterial cells entrapped in hydrogel beads. Enzyme and Microb. Technol. 47:166-173.
  • Prüβ, B.M., K. Verma, P. Samanta, P. Sule, S. Kumar, J. Wu, S.M. Horne, D. Christianson, S.J. Stafslien, A.J. Wolfe, and A.M. Denton. 2010. Environmental and genetic factors that contribute to Escherichia coli K-12 biofilm formation. Arch. Microbiol. 192:715-728.
  • Wadhawan, T., Z.B. Maruska, S. Siripattanakul, C.B. Hill, A. Gupta, B.M. Prüß, J.M. McEvoy, and E. Khan. 2011. A new method to determine initial viability of entrapped cells using fluorescent nucleic acid staining. Bioresource Technol. 102:1622-1627.
  • Sule, P., S.M. Horne, C.M. Logue, and B.M. Prüβ. Regulation of cell division, biofilm formation, and virulence by FlhC in Escherichia coli O157:H7 grown on meat. Appl. Environm. Microbiol. 77:3653-3662.

Current Graduate Students

  • Preeti Sule: Ph.D. Molecular Pathogenesis, winner of CAFSNR Frank Bain Award in 2008 and 2009, Frank Bain Dissertation Fellowship in 2010, invited student speaker and travel awardee at the 2009 ASM meeting in Philadelphia, 2nd price in student poster competition at Purdue University in 2007, 3rd price in student oral presentation competition in Mankato, MN in 2010.
  • Priyankar Samanta: MS Microbiology, winner of Frank Bain Award in 2010.
  • Shane Stafslien: MS Microbiology.
  • Ty Lynnes: MS Microbiology

Current Careers of Previous Students

  • Jyoti Iyer: currently a Ph.D. student at University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Nathan Carr: currently a pathology assistant with OSF Hospital at Peoria
  • Megan Townsend: currently a research associate at the USDA Fargo
  • Tanush Wadhawan: currently a Ph.D. student at NDSU
  • Karan Verma: finished a M.S. in biotechnology at John’s Hopkins University.