Staphylococcus aureus is a Gram-positive bacterial pathogen that is reported to cause more U.S. deaths annually than HIV. Acinetobacter baumannii is a Gram-negative pathogen that is emerging as a predominant cause of infections within military personnel injured during Operation Iraqi Freedom and has recently caused deadly outbreaks in the U.S., South America, and Europe. In addition to causing high incidences of morbidity and mortality, both organisms have also developed resistance to all currently available antibiotics, further amplifying public health concern and accentuating the need for new antibiotics for the treatment of S. aureus and A. baumannii infections.
Our laboratory uses S. aureus and A. baumannii as model organisms to study bacterial pathogenesis and develop novel strategies for the therapeutic intervention of bacterial infections. That work has revealed that most bacterial virulence factors are post-transcriptionally regulated in a manner that involves the modulation of their mRNA turnover. Current laboratory projects are geared toward characterizing the molecular components that govern ‘native’ and temporal changes in mRNA degradation. These factors can be broadly categorized as either: small non-coding RNAs, ribonucleases, or RNA binding proteins. We have purified and exploited several of these factors as targets for antimicrobial drug discovery.