Regulation of expression of genetic transfer functions and the regulation of virulence in gram positive bacteria, with a special interest in regulatory mechanisms involving cell-cell signaling by peptide mating pheromones - also, the study of several novel intracellular regulatory RNA molecules that control expression of genes involved in conjugative plasmid transfer.
Gary Dunny's current research is focused on the following projects, each of which is supported by a grant from the NIH.
Genetic Functions of an Enterococcal R factor
Enterococci are gram-positive bacteria commonly found in the intestinal tract of healthy individuals that also serve as a major vector for the spread of antibiotic resistance determinants. This project studies the mechanism by which conjugative transfer from a donor cell of an antibiotic resistance plasmid called pCF10 is stimulated by a peptide pheromone produced by the recipient cell.
Biofilms and Enterococcus Biology
Enterococci are frequent causes of opportunistic infections, particularly among hospital patients. The medical significance of these organisms is due in part to their inherent and acquired resistance to antimicrobial chemotherapeutic agents, and to their ability to transfer genetic determinants for resistance to other pathogens. It is clear that biofilm formation contributes significantly to the medical problems caused by enterococci. Endocarditis, the most serious enterococcal infection, also involves surface colonization and growth on heart valves in a biofilm-like state. These studies of enterococcal physiology and genetics as they relate to the biofilm state will enhance understanding of enterococcal disease pathogenesis.
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