Research in our laboratory is focused on two aspects of gene regulation in soil bacteria of the genus Pseudomonas.
2. Genetic regulation of biofilm development
1. Molecular mechanisms of transcriptional regulation of the atz genes
The atz genes of Pseudomonas sp. ADP, encoding the atrazine utilization pathway has proven a very interesting model system to study the integration of general and specific signals into a sophisticated gene regulation circuit. Our current research in this area is centered in (i) the interactions of the regulatory factors AtzR and NtrC and other accessory proteins such as IHF with their regulated atz promoter regions, (ii) the interactions of AtzR with its effectors, cyanuric acid and the signal transduction protein GlnK, and (iii) the molecular mechanisms that operate on transcriptional regulation of the atz promoters in response to nitrogen limitation and cyanuric acid.
Biofilm formation is an example of coordinated collective behavior resembling a developmental process. The development of a mature biofilm is achieved through a number of sequential steps, each of which is marked by changes in gene expression in response to environmental cues and cell-cell signalling. We are starting a new research project in which we will use bacterial genetics, genomics and developmental biology methods to unveil the regulatory mechanisms behind biofilm formation in the soil bacterium Pseudomonas putida, with the following goals: (i) identification and characterization of genes specifically induced during biofilm formation, (ii) phenotypic characterization of mutants impaired in biofilm formation, (iii) identification and characterization of regulatory factors responsible for biofilm development, and (iv) genetic manipulation of the biofilm developmental cycle for the generation of robust biofilm-based catalysts for industrial use.