Birgit Pruess, assistant professor of veterinary and microbiological sciences, received an R15 award from the National Institutes of Health for $358,750 for a research project titled “Temporal and spatial expression of regulators affecting/Escherichia coli/biofilm.”
Biofilms are communities of bacteria that stick to surfaces. While they can be beneficial for many purposes, such as the production of biofuels, they also cause many problems in medical contexts. For example, approximately 80 percent of all bacterial infections involve biofilm. Understanding how the expression of genes is regulated in response to signals from the environment is an important prerequisite for the development of novel techniques that either prevent the formation of biofilm or treat an existing condition.
The proposed research will be the investigation of the expression of specific genes throughout the formation of biofilm in a time-course experiment. Genes that will be expressed early can then be used for the development of prevention techniques. In a second experiment, gene expression will be investigated in specific niches of the three-dimensional structure that forms the biofilm. Genes that will be expressed at the outermost edge of the colonies will then be used for the development of treatment techniques. The experiments will be done with fluorescent labeling and fluorescence microscopy. The R15 mechanism covers research grants that involve graduate and undergraduate students.