Our lab investigates the dynamics of living organisms. Bacteria is one of the best systems in which to pursue this question due to its relative simplicity and the wealth of available tools. We explore how physical properties of a system (i.e., shear stress, advection, diffusion) impact the development of bacteria across multiple length scales, from single cell units into multicellular organisms. Our projects seek to understand the role of physical properties in the development of dense biofilm communities. We design and fabricate microfluidic devices, perform cellular manipulation, and measure cellular dynamics using optical microscopy and computational analysis. The lab connects experiment and theory through the development of models and simulations.
Keywords: Pseudomonas aeruginosa, bacterial mechanosensation, virulence regulation, pathogenesis, mechano-genetics, PilY1, microfluidics
Mechano-genetics / Signal transduction
We explore how mechanical forces regulate bacterial pathogenesis using an approach that combines techniques from biophysics, molecular biology, genetics, fluid mechanics, and computational modeling. The fundamental questions that I explore are: 1. What is the role of mechanosensation in bacterial virulence, 2. How does mechanosensation affect colonization, 3. What signaling mechanisms do bacteria use to detect and transduce mechanical stimuli?
We recently identified a putative mechanosensor of surfaces, PilY1, that regulates virulence in the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginsosa. We are exploring the role of PilY1 detecting mechanical cues associated with host infection and regulating virulence.
The ability of bacteria to invade and colonize host cells is dictated by the forces associated with the membrane and surround fluids. We use microscopy, force measurement, and microfluidic techniques to understand how bacteria interact with host cells. In particular, we explore how bacteria detect and respond to surfaces using a unique “sense of touch”. We explore how these interactions at the single-cell level drive the interactions in large bacterial communities.
Bacterial inter-species interactions
In natural settings, bacteria compete with other species for nutrients and space. Cells use a vast array of mechanisms to be the dominant species or in some cases, to co-exist with other species. We explore interactions between different bacterial species in environments that replicate conditions found in nature and in hosts using genetics and developing cutting-edge microscopy techniques.