Roy Takes 1st Place in GRID Cell Category

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Varnika Roy.

Graduate student Varnika Roy (Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology), advised by Fischell Department of Bioengineering Professor and Chair William Bentley, took first place in a bio-oriented category called "A Broad View of the Microscopic Cell" at the 2009 Graduate Research and Interaction Day (GRID) for her presentation titled " Metabolically Engineering the Quorum Sensing Circuitry to Modulate Bacterial Communication."

GRID, which is run by the Graduate Student Government, is a campus-wide event in which graduate students from all parts of the university present and discuss their work with faculty and fellow students, enabling them to receive feedback from a broader audience and perfect their conference presentation skills. Participants make oral and poster presentations that are judged in a variety of categories by faculty, postdoctoral fellows, administrators, and other specialists from around campus.

Roy conducts her research in Bentley's Metabolic Engineering Laboratories. Her presentation focused on new ways of combating antibiotic-resistant "super bugs" and pathogenic bacteria strains by inhibiting quorum sensing, the phenomenon of inter- and intra-species communication in bacteria coordinated by their emission of a signaling molecule called AI-2 (autoinducer-2). Once communication is initiated amongst bacteria, they simultaneously alter their genetic response to become increasingly pathogenic and can form structured communities called biofilms. Currently antibiotics are ineffective in destroying bacteria living in thick biofilms. Roy described the use of new kinds of antimicrobials that interrupt communication of a whole population of cells rather than attempt to kill individual bacteria. The specific technique she is exploring uses the bacteria's own quorum sensing tools against themselves. The enzyme LsrK from the bacteria's quorum sensing machinery is delivered outside the bacteria to phosphorylate and degrade the AI-2 molecules.

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Published April 24, 2009