Monitoring Bacterial Predators in Extreme Environments

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Sponsoring College, Department, School or Center: 
School of Molecular Sciences
Faculty Name: 
Steve Pressé
Preferred Skills or Majors: 

Microbiology (pipetting), Bacterial culturing, basic microscopy.

Closing Date: 
August 31, 2022
Location or Campus: 
Hours Per Week: 

Desired Academic Year: 
Project Description: 

This Project is for an Honors Project Thesis.

Predatory bacteria–such as Bdellovibrio and like organisms (BALOs)–prey on a range of gram negative species and are poised to serve as important biocontrol agents. For example, a model BALO, Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus (Bb), has been shown to degrade microbial biofilms, including antibiotic resistant ones, plays a role in wastewater treatment, shows potential against plant pathogens, and has recently been shown to curb infections in animal models earning it the title of “living antibiotic”. Understanding both Bb’s hunting strategy and life cycle are prerequisites toward exploiting Bb as a biocontrol agent. In recent work, we explored trajectories of individual Bb neighboring surfaces and objects. These revealed, for the first time, how passive hydrodynamic forces driven by Bb’s perturbation of the fluid in its immediate surroundings preferentially drive Bb toward surfaces where prey are in abundance. These observations raise the following questions that are the purpose of the project: Question 1) Under starvation conditions, how do bacterial predators, which depend on a chance encounter with prey for survival, adapt their speed differently from bacterial prey (which, by contrast, rely on freely diffusing nutrients)? Question 2) How do Bb re-priotitize their transcriptional program to cues from their surroundings in extreme environments? Question 3) Can we map out the fluid flow field around Bb as a function of hours since starvation? Altogether, can we determine how Bb differentially allocate their finite energetic resources between homeostatic upkeep and overcoming drag as they propel through solution in different environments?

Application Instructions and Contact Info: 

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