Application of functional genomic tools to investigate microbial gene expression in different environments. With the availability of complete genome sequences of different microorganisms, functional genomic tools provide a powerful approach for identifying microbial genes that are expressed during association of bacteria with their hosts in response to various environmental factors. Techniques we are using include a custom designed microarray, fluorescence-activated cell sorting, and bioinformatic tools to explore genes of bacterial pathogens that are involved in type III secretion regulon and pathogenesis.
Development of novel antimicrobials. With the rise of antibiotic resistance, it is crucial to be creative and find new ways of harnessing undiscovered antimicrobials. The type III secretion system (T3SS) is a highly specialized protein secretion system that is essential to the virulence of many animal, human, and plant pathogens. The T3SS is an attractive target for development of antimicrobial compounds, since it is present mainly in pathogenic bacteria and is often required for virulence by these species. The aims of this study are to identify novel, potent, new antibiotics, develop selective inhibitors of the T3SS, and study the effect of these antimicrobials on key targets of the bacterial pathogens.
Novel approaches to study microbial ecology using microbial diversity profiling. The quantitative description of microbial communities is one of the most promising areas of research in microbial ecology. New techniques in molecular ecology have now opened the door for revolutionary advances in our understanding of microbial communities in nature, and identification of new microorganisms and microbial products that can be harnessed for biotechnology. We have been especially interested in developing novel approaches to analyze microbial diversity that are associated with plants. Our most recent work focuses on interactions between plants and microorganisms using 16S and 18S rDNA profiling.