Si studiano i meccanismi genetici e molecolari che permettono a parassiti, virus e batteri di svolgere le proprie funzioni vitali. Capire il normale funzionamento di questi agenti biologici, infatti, è il primo passo verso l’identificazione del “tallone d’Achille” da colpire per indebolire i microrganismi patogeni.
Bacterial infections of the gastrointestinal tract represent a serious global health concern. Childhood diarrhoea in the developing countries and among travellers is a common pathology, affecting millions of people. The major goal of this research project is to shed light on the interplay that in the typical enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) strain E2348/69 occurs at the level of the horizontally acquired chromosomal islands LEE (locus of enterocyte effacement) and AFI (acid fitness island). This interplay, which appears to be essential for timely activation of acid resistance genes in the stomach and virulence genes in the intestine, remains poorly defined in EPEC at both genetic and molecular levels. Our analysis will be also extended to the virulence plasmid pMAR2, which carries the genes for the bundle-forming pili. Further, we will pursue a biochemical and structural characterization of the acid resistance regulator GadX and of the GadA/B decarboxylases with the aim of providing a more clear picture of the events that at the molecular level lead to the intracellular activation of glutamate-dependent AR. The role played by the AFI genes in terms of their ability to affect bacterial motility, aggregation and biofilm formation will be also investigated. Impairment in any of the above abilities is also linked to the pathogenic process. We expect that our work will also contribute to spot useful targets for therapeutics or vaccines.
Ricerca: Study of RNA damage in yeast as a model for age-related degenerative diseases