Learning to manipulate bacterial small RNA (sRNA) responses by investigating the sRNA regulatory response to environmental changes.

Bacterial small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) have been linked to cellular responses essential for bacteria to adapt to changes in their environment. While the role of individual sRNAs to a given environmental stimulus has been elucidated, little is known about global sRNA changes or how the roles of individual sRNAs could be connected. This research direction will utilize toehold switch sensors in paper-based, cell-free reactions to develop a fundamental understanding of the global sRNA response to environmental changes. In doing so, we will develop methods to manipulate bacterial responses for biotechnology applications.



Developing new tools for engineering bacteria by exploring transcription attenuation mechanisms.
Our ability to harness the power of bacteria relies on the ability to program gene expression. While significant progress has been made in developing tools to program gene expression, most work has been done in a few, key model organisms. Transcription attenuation is an intriguing mechanism for engineering bacteria because diverse bacterial species naturally use variations of this mechanism to regulate essential genes. The goal of this aim is to determine the design rules behind transcriptional attenuators to enable the design of new RNA regulators that can function across multiple bacterial species.




Discovering novel antimicrobial agents by identifying sRNA binding peptides using a cell-free gene expression system.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem that poses a major threat to human health worldwide. New antibiotic compounds or treatment strategies are urgently needed to combat this problem. Evidence suggests that sRNAs are valuable targets for new antimicrobial compounds due to their role in regulating virulence and antibiotic resistance genes. This project will advance novel treatment strategies for antibiotic resistant bacteria by identifying candidate peptides and systematically evaluating their efficacy to inhibit the activation of antibiotic resistance mechanisms.