Honors & Awards
NSF GRFP, NSF (current)
Education & Certifications
Bachelor of Science, Duke University, Biology Maj; Philosophy Min (2009)
Mechanisms used by Clostridium difficile to emerge in the intestine.
The human intestine, colonized by a dense community of resident microbes, is a frequent target of bacterial pathogens. Undisturbed, this intestinal microbiota provides protection from bacterial infections. Conversely, disruption of the microbiota with oral antibiotics often precedes the emergence of several enteric pathogens. How pathogens capitalize upon the failure of microbiota-afforded protection is largely unknown. Here we show that two antibiotic-associated pathogens, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. typhimurium) and Clostridium difficile, use a common strategy of catabolizing microbiota-liberated mucosal carbohydrates during their expansion within the gut. S. typhimurium accesses fucose and sialic acid within the lumen of the gut in a microbiota-dependent manner, and genetic ablation of the respective catabolic pathways reduces its competitiveness in vivo. Similarly, C. difficile expansion is aided by microbiota-induced elevation of sialic acid levels in vivo. Colonization of gnotobiotic mice with a sialidase-deficient mutant of Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, a model gut symbiont, reduces free sialic acid levels resulting in C. difficile downregulating its sialic acid catabolic pathway and exhibiting impaired expansion. These effects are reversed by exogenous dietary administration of free sialic acid. Furthermore, antibiotic treatment of conventional mice induces a spike in free sialic acid and mutants of both Salmonella and C. difficile that are unable to catabolize sialic acid exhibit impaired expansion. These data show that antibiotic-induced disruption of the resident microbiota and subsequent alteration in mucosal carbohydrate availability are exploited by these two distantly related enteric pathogens in a similar manner. This insight suggests new therapeutic approaches for preventing diseases caused by antibiotic-associated pathogens.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nature12503
View details for Web of Science ID 000325106000038
View details for PubMedID 23995682
Diet has major effects on the intestinal microbiota, but the exact mechanisms that alter complex microbial communities have been difficult to elucidate. In addition to the direct influence that diet exerts on microbes, changes in microbiota composition and function can alter host functions such as gastrointestinal (GI) transit time, which in turn can further affect the microbiota.We investigated the relationships among diet, GI motility, and the intestinal microbiota using mice that are germ-free (GF) or humanized (ex-GF mice colonized with human fecal microbiota).Analysis of gut motility revealed that humanized mice fed a standard polysaccharide-rich diet had faster GI transit and increased colonic contractility compared with GF mice. Humanized mice with faster transit due to administration of polyethylene glycol or a nonfermentable cellulose-based diet had similar changes in gut microbiota composition, indicating that diet can modify GI transit, which then affects the composition of the microbial community. However, altered transit in mice fed a diet of fermentable fructooligosaccharide indicates that diet can change gut microbial function, which can affect GI transit.Based on studies in humanized mice, diet can affect GI transit through microbiota-dependent or microbiota-independent pathways, depending on the type of dietary change. The effect of the microbiota on transit largely depends on the amount and type (fermentable vs nonfermentable) of polysaccharides present in the diet. These results have implications for disorders that affect GI transit and gut microbial communities, including irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.
View details for DOI 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.01.047
View details for Web of Science ID 000317813900026
View details for PubMedID 23380084
In the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans, Ras signaling mediates sexual differentiation, morphogenesis, and pathogenesis. By studying Ras prenylation and palmitoylation in this organism, we have found that the subcellular localization of this protein dictates its downstream signaling specificity. Inhibiting C. neoformans Ras1 prenylation results in the defective general membrane targeting of this protein and the loss of all Ras function. In contrast, palmitoylation mediates localization of Ras1 to the plasma membrane and is required for normal morphogenesis and survival at high temperatures. However, palmitoylation and plasma membrane localization are not required for Ras-dependent sexual differentiation. Likely as a result of its effect on thermotolerance, Ras1 palmitoylation is also required for the pathogenesis of C. neoformans. These data support an emerging paradigm of compartmentalized Ras signaling. However, our studies also demonstrate fundamental differences between the Ras pathways in different organisms that emphasize the functional flexibility of conserved signaling cascades.
View details for DOI 10.1128/EC.00351-08
View details for Web of Science ID 000263027200005
View details for PubMedID 19098128
The protein modifier ubiquitin is a signal for proteasome-mediated degradation in eukaryotes. Proteasome-bearing prokaryotes have been thought to degrade proteins via a ubiquitin-independent pathway. We have identified a prokaryotic ubiquitin-like protein, Pup (Rv2111c), which was specifically conjugated to proteasome substrates in the pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Pupylation occurred on lysines and required proteasome accessory factor A (PafA). In a pafA mutant, pupylated proteins were absent and substrates accumulated, thereby connecting pupylation with degradation. Although analogous to ubiquitylation, pupylation appears to proceed by a different chemistry. Thus, like eukaryotes, bacteria may use a small-protein modifier to control protein stability.
View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1163885
View details for Web of Science ID 000260867700038
View details for PubMedID 18832610