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Understanding How Oral Bacteria Adapt to Their Environment

Posted by M Brillant on July 7, 2014 in research, News, Funding News-Research, Research

Dr. Yung-Hua Li of the Department of Applied Oral Sciences has recently been awarded an NSERC Discovery grant for his research on Molecular Analyses of the Competence Regulatory Network in Streptococcus mutans.

Many bacteria are able to pick up DNA from their surroundings and incorporate it into their own genome. By doing so, bacteria rapidly acquire new genes or traits that may allow them to survive in harsh conditions. It can also make bacteria resistant to antibiotics or become more virulent (able to cause diseases). However, to undergo this genetic transformation the bacteria must be in a specific state of readiness called competence. Although transformation happens in many bacteria, how and when competence occurs is not fully understood.

With this five-year grant, Dr. Li's research team will attempt to unravel the complex network of regulatory circuits in Streptococcus mutans, a component of dental plaque. The team will determine how different molecular pathways interact with each other and with the bacterial environment, to control competence. This research will significantly advance understanding of how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics and adapt to changing environments.