Pathogen proteomics and genomics
My group is interested in the multifunctional nature of proteins, proteases that modify surface proteins and other posttranslational events that regulate protein function. We are one of Australia’s leading microbial proteomics facilities.
Research focuses on the functional analysis of bacterial surface and secreted proteins, how they get modified and what molecules they target in the host. Specific interests:
- Functional analysis of bacterial adhesins
- Post-translationally modified membrane proteins.
- Proteases and their role in modifying surface proteins
- Moonlighting proteins
- Genomic epidemiology
- Functional analysis of plasmid and genomic islands
- Assembly of complex resistance gene loci in clinically important Gram negative pathogens
- Movement of antibiotic resistance genes between humans, food animals and the environment
- Predicting and characterising emerging bacterial pathogens.
Bacteria efface with their hosts and the environment via proteins that assemble on the surface or are secreted into the extracellular milieu. Bacterial surface proteins are under constant evolutionary pressure to avoid immune detection whilst maintaining key cellular functions. We use proteomics to interrogate protein location, protein function and as a methodology to identify posttranslational modifications to proteins and the expression of novel ORFs. Bacteria evolve to enhance their capacity to occupy niche by acquiring genetic material via lateral gene transfer.
Antibiotic resistance and virulence genes are acquired by LGT on mobile elements such as plasmids, phage and genomic islands. The incidence of multiple antibiotic resistance is rising and is a global epidemic. We are thus also interested in multiple antibiotic resistance, how resistance genes assemble into complex antibiotic resistance gene loci (CRL), insertions elements that play a key role in assembling CRL, and the plasmids, genomic islands and phage elements that transmit CRL between reservoirs where antibiotics are used heavily or accumulate in high concentrations (food animals, waste ponds, aquatic environments and hospitals). These events underpin the importance of adopting a One Health approach to dealing with superbugs, emerging and MDR pathogens. These events are best tracked by adopting a genomic epidemiological approach to One Health which provides data on the design of resistance gene loci, the mobile elements that purvey them and the genetic nature of the strains acquiring resistance. Genomics reveals how antibiotic resistance genes co-evolve on mobile elements and play a key role in the evolution of emerging pathogens. I work closely with Industry, clinical microbiologists, medics and veterinarians to gain a comprehensive picture of how antibiotic resistance and virulence genes flow between reservoirs threatening humans, food animal and plant health. Together we are developing and implementing novel diagnostic assays to track them.
The ithree institute has a strategic partnership with the NSW Department of Primary Industries (opens an external site) that will see the university’s expertise in infectious diseases being used to safeguard the state’s agriculture, horticulture, livestock and equine industries.
Phone: +61 2 9514 4127