Molecular dissection of conjugative transport in Gram-negative bacteria
Prof Gabriel Waksman
Birkbeck, University of London
The spread of antibiotic resistance genes among bacterial pathogens has become a key public health issue, causing thousands of untimely deaths. One important means by which these genes spread from one bacterium to another is through bacterial conjugation, the process by which DNA is transferred from a donor cell to a recipient cell. This process is mediated by a large macromolecular pump embedded in the membranes of donor cells which is a type 4 secretion (T4S) system.
Conjugation starts with the processing of the DNA by a large complex called the relaxosome. It is followed by donor and recipient cells coming together to form tight conjugative junctions. This is followed by transfer through the T4S system. We aim to elucidate the mechanism of each of these steps.
Our findings will provide the basis for the design of inhibitors for bacterial conjugation which will disrupt the process of antibiotic resistance.