The goal of this project is to use innovative systems biology and synthetic biology approaches to quantitatively characterize and analyze bacterial gene regulatory networks underlying cellular responses to antibiotics, the formation of persisters and the emergence of resistance. With the alarming spread of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, a better understanding of the specific sequences of events leading to cell death from bactericidal antibiotics is needed for future antibacterial drug development. Accordingly, there is a need for systems biology and synthetic biology approaches to discern the interplay between genes, proteins and pathways in furthering our understanding of how bacteria respond and defend themselves against antibiotics. The implications of the underlying logic of genetic networks are difficult to deduce through experimental techniques alone, and successful approaches will in many cases, involve the union of new experiments and computational modeling techniques. To address this problem, we have developed computational-experimental methods that enable construction of quantitative models of gene, protein and metabolite regulatory networks using expression measurements and no prior information on the network structure or function. In this project, we will use these approaches to reverse engineer bacterial gene regulatory networks underlying cellular responses to antibiotics, the formation of persisters and the emergence of resistance. The resulting networks and pathways will be analyzed to gain insight into the regulatory control of the associated biological processes, and the network models will be used to identify key regulators and mediators for a variety of phenotypic responses. This work could lead to new insights into the stress response of bacteria and the identification of novel targets for drug discovery, e.g., ones that overcome bacterial protective mechanisms or activate bacterial programmed cell death. This project may thus enable the development of novel classes of antibiotics that account for and utilize the complex regulatory properties of genetic networks.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Office of The Director, National Institutes of Health (OD)
NIH Director’s Pioneer Award (NDPA) (DP1)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZGM1-NDPA-G (P2))
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Wehrle, Janna P
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Boston University
Engineering (All Types)
Schools of Engineering
United States
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