All microorganisms, including pathogens, must cope with dramatic environmental changes. Bacterial adaptation to stress is a multifaceted process demanding precise control of gene expression at all layers of regulation. Whereas we have learned a great deal about bacterial physiology from regulation by transcriptional control elements over the last decades, the role of post-transcriptional regulators has only more recently been appreciated. In this project, we study the regulatory principles and physiological roles of regulatory RNAs in bacterial pathogens, including Vibrio cholerae. (Peschek et al., 2019Herzog et al., 2019, and Papenfort et al., 2013)



RNA is common to all living organisms. Despite its major function as the coding agent for protein synthesis, an increasing number of regulatory roles have been assigned to RNA in prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. The natural versatility and the modular architecture of RNA regulators make them ideal substrates for bioengineering purposes. In this project, we develop artificial RNA regulators for specific regulatory tasks in bacteria. (Peschek et al., 2019 and Fröhlich et al., 2013).



It is well established that bacteria can exploit stochastic processes to transition between alternative phenotypes. In contrast, how post-transcriptional gene control can affect noisy gene expression has not been explored. In this project, we will investigate how regulatory RNAs influence heterogeneous gene expression in bacteria and study the molecular mechanisms underlying this process. (Papenfort et al., 2015, Peschek et al., 2019Chao et al., 2017, and Feng et al., Cell, 2015)  



Intercellular communication among microbes, often called ‘Quorum Sensing’, allows bacteria to modify their behavior in response to changes in the cell density and species composition of the vicinal community. In the major human pathogen Vibrio cholerae, Quorum Sensing is intimately linked to complex regulatory processes such as biofilm formation and virulence. In this project, we focus on the molecular mechanisms of Quorum Sensing in V. cholerae. (Papenfort et al., 2017, Papenfort et al., PNAS, 2015Papenfort and Bassler 2016, and Feng et al., Cell, 2015)



Bacterial small RNAs (sRNAs) act as key elements in regulatory networks to control gene expression. While hundreds of sRNA candidates have been identified in genome-wide bioinformatic-based or experimental screens in enterobacteria, the bulk of studies investigating the function and mechanisms of sRNAs have been focusing on Escherichia coli or its close relatives. We use Caulobacter crescentus as a model organism to study the principles of RNA-mediated gene regulation in alpha-proteobacteria. (Fröhlich et al., 2018 and Santiago-Frangos et al., 2018

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