Deep diving - understanding the nature of essential genes in bacteria

Incentives to define lists of genes that are essential for bacterial survival include the identification of potential targets for antibacterial drug development, genes required for rapid growth for exploitation in biotechnology, the discovery of new biochemical pathways and understanding of the nature and origin of life. To identify essential genes in Escherichia coli, we constructed a transposon mutant library of unprecedented density. Initial automated analysis of the resulting data revealed many discrepancies compared to the literature. Using extensive statistical analyses supported by both literature searches and detailed inspection of high-density TraDIS sequencing data provides a better understanding of essential genes in bacteria, reveals the limitations of relying on automated analyses alone, and the problems associated with traditional approaches to forward and reverse genetic screens. Combining TraDIS with chemical genomic screens reveals new insight into biosynthetic pathways in bacteria that can be harnessed as new targets for antimicrobial development.

Qualifications: B.Sc. (Hons) University College Dublin 1990, Ph.D. Trinity College Dublin 1996, PGCertLTHE University of Birmingham 2002. Current roles: Deputy Director Research; Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Queensland 2018- present, Professor of Microbial Biology; Institute of Microbiology and Infection, University of Birmingham, 2015-present.