News & Events
NZ Young Investigator Award to Elliott Dunn
Congratulations to Elliott Dunn, who won the Baxter Healthcare Young Investigator Award at the New Zealand Society for Gastroenterology meeting. Elliott is an M.Sc. student in Ros Kemp's lab and presented his research on "T cell distribution in gastrointestinal inflammatory disorders".
Posted by Roslyn Kemp on 22/11/2013 at 12:00 AM
Greg Cook - elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand
Congratulations to Greg Cook for his election as a Royal Society Fellow, in recognition of his world-leading authority on the metabolism and energetics of microbial growth.
Posted by Liz Owen on 20/11/2013 at 12:00 AM
Prestigious James Cook Fellowship awarded to Prof Gerald Tannock
Congratulations to Gerald Tannock who has been awarded a James Cook Research Fellowship. Gerald's research is entitled: “A path to understanding bowel bacteria”.
The large bowels of humans contain trillions of bacterial cells belonging to hundreds of species that form self-regulating communities known as the microbiota. These collections of bacteria have the capacity to chemically transform digestion-resistant-carbohydrates and other polymers present in the digesta. The aim of the program is to develop ways to experiment with mixtures of bacteria that live in the human bowel. Physiological measurements of specific bacteria in pure and co-culture in laboratory microcosms will be made to determine the nutritional drivers of microbiota composition and function, especially with respect to the little studied bacterial family Lachnospiraceae. The basic science generated by this approach could be translated to technology (problem solving) with respect to the development of foods and prophylactic supplements that would contribute to sustaining life-long health. Also critical to translation of basic science to technology is the derivation and dissemination of an updated conceptual view of human bowel ecology. The proposed program thus encompasses laboratory research and science communication and has the overall aim of providing a path to understanding bowel bacteria.
The James Cook Research Fellowships are awarded to researchers who have the requisite qualifications and experience and are able to demonstrate that they have achieved national and international recognition in their area of scientific research.
Posted by Roslyn Kemp on 12/11/2013 at 12:00 AM
Rhodes Scholar Finalist
Congratulations to Clare Burn, who made it to the final 7 candidates for the Rhodes Scholarship. Clare completed her BSc Hons research with Dr Merilyn Hibma in 2011, and is currently an assistant research fellow with Dr Jo Kirman.
Posted by Roslyn Kemp on 10/11/2013 at 12:00 AM
PhD Completion - Ron Dy
Congratulations to Ron Dy, who recently completed his PhD in Peter Fineran's lab.
Thesis title: Investigation of the functional link between abortive infection and toxin-antitoxin systems.
Microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses, do not exist in isolation but shape intricate ecological interaction webs. While symbiotic interactions thrive in ecosystems, vulnerable species from non-mutual relationships require continuing adaptation to maintain fitness, if not, face the consequence of extinction. In my PhD, I investigated an altruistic strategy used by bacteria to outwit their viral predators. Abortive infection (Abi) systems are suicide modules activated after infection to restrict viral reproduction within hosts and limit the spread of infectious progeny to the bacterial population. An Abi family functioned through a toxin-antitoxin (TA) mechanism, organised so that the toxic protein is neutralised and regulated by an antidote protein. TA systems are known to maintain accessory genetic elements and help bacteria cope with various stresses. Thus, this study supports that Abi and TA systems overlap, both of which might enable bacteria to cope with detrimental conditions and resist viral infections.
Posted by Liz Owen on 5/11/2013 at 12:00 AM
PhD Completion - Htin Aung
Congratulations to Htin Aung, who recently completed his PhD in Greg Cook's Lab.
Title: CRP is a global regulator of carbon catabolism and energy metabolism in Mycobacterium smegmatis
Tuberculosis has killed more people than any other infectious disease in history. Drug resistance and the HIV pandemic have kept the incidence of tuberculosis at high levels and the emergence and rapid spread of drug-resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis pose a serious threat to the effectiveness of tuberculosis treatment worldwide. No new drug for TB has been licensed in 40 years, but recent research has shown that the energy-generating machinery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the power-plant of the cell, represents a new target for drug development. The regulatory proteins controlling the expression of this energetic machinery is poorly understood. In the present study, we have identified cyclic AMP receptor protein (CRP) as a key regulatory of key enzymes involved in mycobacterial energy generation. CRP was essential for mycobacterial growth and is unique to bacteria (not found in humans) suggesting it is a highly attractive target for tuberculosis drug development.
Posted by Liz Owen on 5/11/2013 at 12:00 AM
2013 Marsden Success
Microbiology and Immunology are proud to report that three of the Department’s researchers gained Marsden Fund grants in the 2013 round. An exceptional achievement by Greg Cook, Andy Mercer, and Keith Ireton.
Professor Greg Cook
Pumping lysine to achieve metabolic homeostasis during infection
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a highly effective pathogen that has evolved numerous mechanisms to successfully invade, replicate, and persist in humans. We have identified an unprecedented role for a lysine transporter (exporter) during M. tuberculosis infection and mycobacterial growth on lipids. We hypothesize that lysine export is crucial for achieving metabolic homeostasis by acting as a “relief valve” or novel energy spilling mechanism. The elucidation of molecular mechanisms governing metabolic homeostasis could identify critical pathways for targets in drug discovery or vaccine design in the fight against tuberculosis.
Cook Lab Research
Professor Andrew Mercer
BAFfled: how does orf virus defeat the BAF cellular defence mechanism?
This project will define a new mechanism by which viruses evade cellular defences. The cellular protein, BAF, is part of our innate defences against viral infection. Most poxviruses defeat this defence by using a viral kinase to phosphorylate BAF. However, Professor Mercer has identified some poxviruses that lack this kinase but can still counteract BAF. The aim of this project is to identify the factor these viruses use to defeat BAF and characterise its mechanism of action.
Mercer Lab Research
Dr Keith Ireton
Role of host cell polarized exocytosis in spread of bacterial pathogens
The project involves the use of genetic and microscopy-based approaches to determine if localised insertion of host membrane ('exocytosis') mediates intercellular spread of the bacterial pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.
Ireton Lab Research
Further information can be found by clicking this link
Posted by Liz Owen on 1/11/2013 at 12:00 AM