Laboratory Learning Program 2023 - Controlling cell-cell communication and group behaviors in in bacteria (MOL-02)

Research Opportunity Number: MOL-02

Project Title:  Controlling cell-cell communication and group behaviors in in bacteria 

Project Summary: Bacteria are tiny ancient organisms. Harmful bacteria have the capacity to kill humans, animals, and plants, while beneficial bacteria play vital roles in keeping humans, animals, and plants alive. How do bacteria do it? They are so small yet they carry out such big jobs. The answer is that bacteria work in groups: They communicate, count their numbers, and act as collectives. Bacteria communicate with one another using chemical molecules that they release into the environment. These molecules travel from cell to cell and the bacteria have receptors on their surfaces that allow them to detect and respond to the build up of the molecules. This process of cell-to-cell communication in bacteria is called “Quorum Sensing” and it allows bacteria to synchronize behavior on a population-wide scale. Bacterial behaviors controlled by quorum sensing are ones that are unproductive when undertaken by an individual bacterium acting alone but become effective when undertaken in unison by the group. For example, quorum sensing controls virulence, biofilm formation, and the exchange of DNA. Current biomedical research is focused on development of therapies to interfere with quorum sensing. Such therapies could be used to combat bacterial pathogenicity. 

The goal of this project is to discover how the DNA binding protein called LuxT controls quorum sensing in Vibrio harveyi, the model bacterium used for quorum-sensing studies, Using bioluminescence assays, mutant analyses, over-expression experiments, and PCR quantitation, we will assess the role of LuxT in the quorum-sensing cascade. We will RNA seq to learn what genes LuxT controls and we will use random mutagenesis to learn how LuxT, itself, is regulated. This research will pinpoint the role of a new component in quorum sensing, which is vital for all of microbiology, including clinical, industrial, and environmental microbiology.

Student Roles & Responsibilities: The student will learn and practice basic molecular biology assays and techniques; learn and practice bacterial genetic strategies; work side by side with a postdoctoral fellow to carry out the experiments/research proposed in the project summary. We will train the student our techniques, in general lab safety, and he/she will always be supervised.
Additional Considerations: The students are expected to work regular business hours during the internship. 

Department/Institute:  Molecular Biology

Faculty Sponsor:   Bonnie Bassler

Participation Dates: July 1 - August 20, 2023.

Stipend Offered:  $600/weekly

Number of Internships Available: 0-1

Application Deadline: March 15, 2023, midnight eastern daylight time