Most bacteria on this planet are found within macroscopic, surface-attached, multi-cellular communities known as biofilms. Biofilms represent a key developmental state of prokaryotic existence, and understanding the fundamental molecular and cell biology of how biofilms are formed is an outstanding problem, relevant to understanding several important natural processes including human infections and the maintenance of microbiomes.
My laboratory uses structural biology techniques, coupled with high-resolution imaging to study general principles governing bacterial biofilm formation. We use electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM) and tomography (cryo-ET) to resolve structures of molecules that mediate biofilm formation. Correlated light and electron microscopy (CLEM) and mass spectrometry are used to support our investigations. We combine in vitro reconstitution of key molecules with in situ imaging to understand how pathogenic bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa form biofilms.
One of the central techniques used in the laboratory is cryo-ET, and we are heavily involved in developing methods for in situ macromolecular structure determination using cryo-ET. We have developed several imaging and image-processing techniques, which we have used to solve structures of macromolecules in situ directly in their cellular context. Method development efforts in the laboratory are driven by, and are highly complementary to the biological focus on understanding biofilm formation.
In this seminar, I will provide an update of recent results in the laboratory in studying bacterial biofilms.