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.

The most recent research project deals with the development of novel biomaterials that prevent the formation of biofilm. We just had a breakthrough by infusing polyurethane with a snall checmical that had inhibited anti-microbial activities in beef broth medium and on small pieces of meat (Lynnes et al., 2014). Polyurethane is a material that is commonly used in clinical and food processing settings. The novel material reduces biofilm amounts by 6 backterial pathogens. Future research will be the improvement of this material to become effective against a larger selection of pathogens, as well as pressing it into more practically relevant shapes (e.g. catheters).

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. Logue, and B.M. Prüβ. 2011. FlhC regulates cell division, biofilm formation and virulence in Escherichia coli O157:H7 grown on meat. Appl. Environm. Microbiol. 77:3653-3662.
  • Mugabi, R., S.M. Horne, and B.M.Prüß. 2012. The role of activated acetate intermediates in the control of Escherichia coli biofilm amounts. WebMedCentral Microbiol. WMC003577.
  • Lynnes, T., B.M. Prüß, and P. Samanta. 2013. Acetate metabolism and Escherichia coli biofilm: new approachesto an old problem. FEMS Microbiol. 344:95-103.
  • Samanta, P., E.R. Clark, K. Knutson, S.M. Horne, and B.M. Prüß. 2013. OmpR and RcsB abolish temporal andspatial changes in expression of flhD in Escherichia coli biofilm. BMCMicrobiol. 13:182.
  • Irsfeld, M., M. Spadafore, andB.M. Prüβ. 2013. ß-phenyethylamine, a small molecule with a large impact.WebMedCentral Biochem. WMC004409.
  • Lynnes, T., S.M. Horne, and B.M.Prüß. 2014. ß-phenylethylamine as a novel nutrient treatment to reducebacterial contamination due to Escherichiacoli O157:H7 on beef meat. Meat Science 96:165-171.
  • Wadhawan, T., H. Simsek, M. Kasic,K. Knutson, B.M. Prüß, J. McEvoy, and E. Khan. 2014. Dissolved organic nitrogenand its biodegradable portion in a water treatment plant with ozone oxidation. Water Res. 54: 318-326.
  • Irsfeld, M., B.M. Prüß, and S.J.Stafslien. 2014. Screening the mechanical stability of Escherichia coli biofilms through exposure to external,hydrodynamic shear forces.J. BasicMicrobiol. 54:1–8.

Current Graduate Students

  • Meredith Schroeder, Ph.D. Molecular Pathogenesis. For her MS project, Meredith has used a water jet to determine biofilm stability and is quantifying the inhibitory effect of B-phenylethylamine has on E.Coli biofilm. Her dissertation project is to develop novel anti-microbial biomaterials by infusing clinically relevant materials with small chemicals. Meredith received an honorary mention from the NSF for her fellowship pro
  • Sara Smith, Ph.D. in Molecular Pathogenesis,co-supervised with Dr. Teresa Bergholz. Sara investigates how environmental factors impact gene regulation, attachment and growth of bacterial pathogens leafy greens,such as lettuce and spinach.
  • Isaac Triebold, Ph.D. in Food Safety. Isaac is an epidemiologist and studies sequelae of food-borne diseases.
  • Jennifer Murphy, MS in Microbiology., Jen investigates the effect of acetyl acetic acidon biofilm by numerous pathogens that are important in medical and agricultural contexts.

Previous Students and Their Current Careers

  • Preeti Sule, Ph.D. is now a postdoctoral fellow at Texas A&M.
  • Priyanka Samanta, Ph.D. is now a research scientist at Johnson & Johnson
  • Megan Townsend, MS is employed at Northern Crops in Fargo.
  • Shane Stafslien, MS is employed at the Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering at NDSU and my collaborator on numerous papers and submitted grants.
  • Robert Mugabi, MS is a Ph.D. student at the University of Vermont.
  • Ty Lynnes is employed at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
  • Hilary Hafner, MS is employed at State Seed in Fargo.
  • Laura Nessa, MS is cusrrently a Ph.D. student in Food Safety.