Elucidating the Role of Tailocins in Microbes from the Human Gut

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The human gut microbiota has become increasingly appreciated as a significant mediator of our physical and mental well-being. For example, our gut microbiota is linked to the development of our immune system, susceptibility to cancer, inflammatory diseases and even mental health. Despite the importance of gut microbiota-host interactions, our understanding of mechanisms that underpin how the microbiota mediates physical and mental health is only in its infancy. Understanding the mechanisms of gut microbiota-host interactions will inform strategies for manipulating our gut bacterial community to ameliorate related diseases and promote our well-being.

Our long-term research goal is to discover and characterize mechanisms mediating bacteria- host interactions for the purpose of informing strategies for better treatments or development of novel therapeutics. We predict that members of the human gut microbiota produce syringe-like structures called tailocins that inject proteinaceous cargo with stimulatory activity into host cells, ultimately modulating human physiology and health. In the present study, we are focusing on identifying and characterizing tailocins produced by Bacteroides spp. and investigate their interactions with the human gut epithelial cells.

Funding for this project provided through the Office of Naval Research, award N00014-17-1-2677.