Helen Wing (Life Sciences) and a group that included 16 members of her research team (seven undergraduate students, six graduate students, two technicians and one post-doctoral fellow) published a paper, "Insights into Transcriptional Silencing and Anti‐Silencing in Shigella flexneri: a Detailed Molecular Analysis of the icsP Virulence Locus," in the journal Molecular Microbiology.
Often virulence genes in bacterial pathogens are controlled by sets of DNA binding proteins that antagonize each other; one set of proteins silences the gene, while the other functions to remove the silencer. In bacteria, DNA binding sites for these regulatory proteins are usually found close to the genes they regulate. Their work shows that key elements needed for the control of a virulence gene in the human pathogen Shigella are found in remote locations, which is surprising. The study highlights the flexibility of the regulatory elements’ positions with respect to each other, but also demonstrates that if another protein is engineered to bind between the key regulators, the antagonism is blocked. The implications for understanding these commonly found regulatory mechanisms in bacteria are discussed in this paper.