The lab is interested in how bacteria regulate gene expression with a focus on understanding the contribution of non-coding RNAs. It is now apparent that the genomes of all organisms are transcribed into an array of regulatory non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) and bacterial pathogens have not escaped the ncRNA revolution. Our major challenge now is to understand the functions of these RNA species and high throughput sequencing technologies and bioinformatics are providing the tools that will allow us to address these questions.
Our model system is the human pathogen, enterohaemorrhagic E. coli O157 (EHEC), that causes disease ranging from gastroenteritis to life treating haemolytic uremic syndrome. The later is caused by release of Shiga toxins that are expressed from bacteriophage (bacterial viruses) that have inserted into the bacterial genome. We have recently identified large numbers of non-coding RNAs that are encoded in EHEC and are seeking to identify those that regulate virulence. We anticipate that by understanding how bacteria employ ncRNAs to control gene expression and respond to stress we will be able to design interventions that limit bacterial pathogenesis and dissemination.
More information on the lab's research can be found on the Tree Lab website.