I am interested in understanding the regulatory networks behind bacterial communication and adaptation to different biological niches.
These complex networks allow bacteria to thrive or simply survive in harsh environments or under fierce competition. But how is a bacterial network build up? Using quorum sensing as a classic example, one protein will be responsible for the production of the signal, and another protein will sense the signal activating transcription/translation of multiple genes thus providing a coordinated adaptive response in the bacterial population. The diversity and complexity of these bacterial networks are enormous and my personal interest lies in unraveling the function and origin of their various components.
Furthermore, I am fascinated by the adaptability of certain bacteria to unique ecological niches. Some bacteria have acquired the ability to survive in environments where competition is scarce. A classic example of this would be extremophiles, but in addition, others have established symbiotic relationships with higher organisms with massive implications for both the bacterium and its host. Some examples include the Vibrio fischeri/Hawaiian bobtail squid symbiosis, Wolbachia/insects and nematodes, and Yersinia pestis/fleas; where often a single gene acquisition is responsible for this adaptation.
I am currently studying the regulatory networks of Arsenophonus nasoniae, an insect symbiont of the parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis that causes mortality of the wasp male progeny. I am interested in elucidating the mechanism behind male killing as well as the regulatory networks behind adaptation to this insect host.