Dr. Justin Donato received a Cottrell College Science Award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement for his work titled "Shedding Light on the Mechanism of Action of an Enzyme that Confers Resistance to a Common Antimicrobial Agent." This grant began July 1, 2012 and will support students for up to three years.
To ensure our arsenal of antimicrobial agents used to combat pathogenic bacteria remains effective against the increasingly common antibiotic resistant bacteria, we must investigate the strategies bacteria use to circumvent antimicrobial treatment. This approach necessitates comprehensive cataloging of resistance genes present in nature, so we used metagenomics, a technique that enabled us to analyze entire diverse bacterial communities at once. Through metagenomics, we bypassed the need to culture bacteria and instead, directly accessed their genetic material. We have used functional metagenomics to identify genes found in bacteria from soil that confer resistance to triclosan, an antimicrobial found in many household items. This technique gave a comprehensive picture of the antibiotic resistance genes in the community and enabled the discovery of tri1, a gene that is distantly related to the cellular target of triclosan. We now plan to conduct experiments to understand the mechanism by which Tri1 confers resistance on its host. We will probe the potential mechanism of resistance employed by Tri1, as well as the amino acids that are critical for enzymatic function. The strategy outlined below will enable us to better understand the molecular details that lead to resistance and could potentially lead to more effective antimicrobial management.