Autotransporters are a large family of virulence proteins produced by Gram-negative bacterial pathogens responsible for infectious diseases such as diarrhoea, whooping cough, cholera, chlamydia, and bacterial meningitis. Autotransporters help establish infection and contribute to disease by performing a vast array of effector functions, including adhesion and invasion of, and cytotoxicity towards eukaryotic host cells, biofilm formation, and disruption of the host immune system. While over 1500 autotransporters have been identified to date (mainly through genome sequence data), only about 60 of these have been functionally characterised. As such, one objective of my lab is to minimise this gap through the characterisation of autotransporter proteins of unknown function in order to determine their role in pathogenesis. It is expected that this work will reveal novel strategies bacterial pathogens use to damage the host and as a consequence, will identify new vaccine targets to prevent autotransporter-mediated infection and disease.
This project will suit students with an interest in bacterial pathogenesis. Training will be provided in molecular biology, protein biochemistry, protein purification, tissue culture, and fluorescence microscopy. Further details may be obtained from Dr Leyton.