SBME Virtual Seminar: Deanna Pepin, Ellie McCallum, & Juan Burckhardt

SBME Virtual Seminar Series

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Genetic engineering for evaluation and control of gut microbial responses

Overview: The human gut is an important ecological niche that harbors a diverse microbial community known as the gut microbiota, which plays an essential role in our health. Dynamic physical factors of the gut such as pH, temperature and molecule concentration can differentially affect members of this community to drastically alter its composition. For example, periods of decreased intestinal absorption (malabsorption) can completely wipe out the commensal bacterial family Muribaculaceae, while the closely related Bacteroidaceae family survives this perturbation. Our goal is to genetically engineer commensal gut bacteria to characterize their specific response to changing environmental conditions, allowing us to elucidate the mechanisms driving changes in community composition. In our work, we use existing genetic tools to engineer the abundant gut commensal of the Bacteroidaceae family, Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, in order to identify genes underlying its osmotolerance. We are also expanding these tools for use in a previously non-tractable member of the Muribaculaceae family, M. intestinale, to determine whether introducing B. thetaiotaomicron osmoprotectant genes not usually found in this organism can increase its osmotolerance. Finally, we are developing new genetic tools for both of these organisms to open new avenues with which to study and control their function in the gut. This work will shed light on mechanisms of bacterial resilience to common abiotic perturbations, and provide new tools to characterize the function of commensal bacteria in the context of their complex environment.






Deanna Pepin

PhD Student, Tropini Lab  |  SBME









Ellie McCallum

PhD Student, Tropini Lab  |  SBME









Juan Burckhardt

PhD Student, Tropini Lab  |  SBME









Dr. Govind Kaigala

Assistant Professor  |  SBME and LSI