Regulation of biofilm formation and virulence in Vibrio cholerae by Giordan Kitts

Giordan Kitts

UC Santa Cruz | Shultz/Swanson/Ticehurst/Tyree-Taylor

Vibrio cholerae is the causative agent of cholera, a gastrointestinal diarrheal disease that can cause hypotonic shock and death within 12 hours of the first symptoms. V. cholerae experiences varying environmental conditions in both aquatic habitats and during host infection, and forms microbial communities known as biofilms to enhance its infectivity and environmental persistence. Biofilm formation is complex and must be carefully regulated, and my work focuses on a regulatory system controlling biofilm formation and host colonization.

ABSTRACT

I study environmental survival, transmission and pathogenesis of the important human pathogen Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of the diarrheal-disease cholera. V. cholerae experiences fluctuating environmental conditions in aquatic habitats and during infection of human hosts, and uses two-component signal transduction systems (TCS) to monitor its environment. My work focuses on a previously uncharacterized TCS (RvvAB) of V. cholerae that inversely regulates biofilm formation and virulence, two processes critical for the transmission and infectivity of V. cholerae. I hypothesize that this TCS is involved in sensing and responding to host environmental signals that V. cholerae encounters during infection to positively govern virulence and adaptation to host environment. My project aims to identify the signals activating the RvvAB TCS and uncover the specific mechanism by which it contributes to V. cholerae pathogenesis. As TCSs are not found in humans, they represent a promising target for the development of anti-bacterial strategies. Thus, new insights gained from my studies may lead to the development of new treatment strategies for cholera.

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