Helen Wing (Life Sciences) has received a three-year National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant worth $445,008. It is a continuation of a research project that now has received nine years of continual NIH funding. The project focuses on virulence gene regulation in the bacterial pathogen Shigella.
Nucleoid structuring proteins found within bacterial cells play an important role in compacting and organizing DNA, but they often silence the transcription of genes that they sequester. Molecular events leading to the displacement or relocation of nucleoid structuring proteins are central to bacterial physiology and virulence, but the mechanistic details remain obscure. An improved understanding of these processes could lead to the discovery of novel drug targets and/or development of new antibacterials. The long-term goal of this project is to fully understand mechanisms of transcriptional silencing and anti-silencing in the bacterial pathogen Shigella.
The new project builds on Wing’s existing studies and specifically focuses on characterizing VirB, a protein that overcomes the effects of nucleoid structuring proteins so that virulence genes are expressed. In this project, researchers will characterize the VirB binding site and examine the involvement of VirB oligomerization and resulting changes in DNA supercoiling in the regulatory activity of VirB.