The overall goal of this research is to understand quorum sensing: the process of cell-to-cell communication in bacteria. This application will focus on quorum sensing in two related bacteria: Vibrio cholerae, a major human pathogen and the marine-bacteria Vibrio harveyi. The quorum- sensing systems in these bacteria channel multiple quorum-sensing signals into one signaling circuit. At the heart of this circuit are multiple small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs) that mediate the quorum-sensing switch and allow cells to collectively regulate gene expression. The specific goals of this application are (1) to develop a quantitative model for the quorum sensing circuit in V. cholerae and V. harveyi and (2) to develop a new theoretical framework for analyzing how sensory information is integrated by the Vibrio quorum sensing circuit using analytical tools from engineering and physics. Developing a quantitative model and theoretical framework for analyzing information flow will help answer three fundamental questions. (1) How can the Vibrio quorum-sensing network maintain signal-transduction specificity even when multiple signals are transmitted through a shared pathway? (2) What are the comparative advantages for signaling provided by RNA regulators (as opposed to DNA-binding proteins) in the quorum- sensing circuit? (3) What are the major sources of noise in the quorum-sensing circuit and what is the effect of this noise on signaling properties? Answering these questions will contribute to our understanding of intra- and inter-species communication in bacteria and the principles underlying information processing and signaling-transduction in cellular circuits. From a broad modeling perspective, this research is likely to yield new analytic and quantitative tools for analyzing signal-transduction and information flow in biochemical networks. This research also has important health implications because many pathogens such as cholera (Vibrio cholerae) use quorum sensing to regulate virulence. Thus, a greater understanding of quorum-sensing may lead to novel drugs to control infection.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Mentored Quantitative Research Career Development Award (K25)
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Microbiology and Infectious Diseases B Subcommittee (MID)
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Sledjeski, Darren D
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Boston University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
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Harcombe, William R; Riehl, William J; Dukovski, Ilija et al. (2014) Metabolic resource allocation in individual microbes determines ecosystem interactions and spatial dynamics. Cell Rep 7:1104-15
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