Cell biology and Biotechnology

Regulatory mechanisms of gene expression in pollutant-degrading bacteria

Dra Francisca Reyes
Researcher associated to Dr Fernando Govantes

Five relevant publications
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Many bacteria have the ability to degrade a variety of environmental pollutants and use them as growth substrates, making them a powerful tool for removing dangerous pollutants that are causing irreversible damage to the biosphere.

Far from controlled conditions in the laboratory, microbial survival in natural habitats is often threatened by constantly fluctuating environmental conditions. Bacteria have learned to adapt to these stressful situations by adjusting their transcriptional profile and optimising gene expression. We study gene regulation and regulatory mechanisms (regulatory proteins, regulatory RNAs, induced gene function, etc.) that allow environmental pollutant-degrading bacteria to trigger the appropriate physiological and metabolic response to each environmental condition.

We focus on two aspects of regulation:
  • The General Stress Response (GSR) of Sphingopyxis granuli TFA. TFA is an Alphaproteobacterium capable of growing with the organic solvent tetralin (1,2,3,4-tetrahydronaphthalene) as its sole carbon and energy source. GSR is a global bacterial protective response against a wide variety of stresses. This response is controlled by two sigma factors of extracytoplasmic function (ECFG1-ECFG2). The regulatory cascade involves in addition to ECFs, the anti-sigma proteins NepR1-NepR2 and the anti-anti-sigma proteins PhyR1-PhyR2.
  • The regulation of anaerobic metabolism in Sphingopyxis granuli TFA. TFA is the only Sphingopyxis described with the ability to grow under anaerobic conditions by respiring nitrate. This new metabolism makes it particularly interesting as it allows it to inhabit new ecological niches. As part of this response, we are working on the identification and characterisation of small regulatory RNAs in anaerobiosis and the regulation of flagellar genes to oxygen availability.

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