The devastating impact of Super Storm Sandy on the NYU Medical center was caused by the total flooding of the lower levels of the entire Medical Center, including the Smilow Vivarium, which was under 15 of water. This caused not only the loss of electric power, air circulation, running water, etc., but also the destruction of our IVIS imaging camera and the loss of all of our mice, 30 of which were at that time being used for an experiment on the effect of the AIP on kidney infections following the IV inoculation of virulent staphylococci. We had been using bacteria tagged with a luciferase reporter to monitor the fate of the infecting bacteria by imaging in the IVIS. Although our luciferase reporters worked well for the subcutaneous infection model, we found, during a subsequent experiment that our luciferase constructs did not provide a sufficiently strong signal for the detection of bacteria in the kidney abscesses which develop following IV inoculation of staphylococci and so we had to use other parameters, such as weight loss, morbidity, and mortality to evaluate the results. Consequently, we spent a considerable amount of time developing new reporters with higher luciferase activities or with fluorescent proteins (E2- crimson and iRFP) that are excited and emit in the near infra-red. The newer luciferase constructs were being used in the experiment that was in progress at the time of the storm. Since these strains were still being tested, they were stored temporarily on plates in the cold room and in a -20 freezer. Among the consequences of the storm, described in more detail in the accompanying application for a for-cost extension of our other grant, R01-AI22159, were the loss of power for these freezers and the cold room, resulting in the loss of all these temporary cultures, and in our entire supply of AIPs, which were stored in solution in a +4 refrigerator, whose temperature reached 50C during the power outage, causing hydrolysis of the thiolactone bond essential for AIP activity.

Public Health Relevance

Staphylococcus aureus; long a scourge of the hospital; has invaded the outside community with enhanced virulence and high contagion. Our project is aimed at understanding the pathobiology of the organism and learning how to block its ability to cause disease by interfering with the function of a key bacterial signaling system that activates the production of toxins and other detrimental substances.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Project (R01)
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Prokaryotic Cell and Molecular Biology Study Section (PCMB)
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Huntley, Clayton C
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New York University
Schools of Medicine
New York
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Wang, Boyuan; Zhao, Aishan; Novick, Richard P et al. (2014) Activation and inhibition of the receptor histidine kinase AgrC occurs through opposite helical transduction motions. Mol Cell 53:929-40
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Lyon, Gholson J; Muir, Tom W (2003) Chemical signaling among bacteria and its inhibition. Chem Biol 10:1007-21
Lyon, Gholson J; Wright, Jesse S; Muir, Tom W et al. (2002) Key determinants of receptor activation in the agr autoinducing peptides of Staphylococcus aureus. Biochemistry 41:10095-104

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