A greater understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of regulation in pathogens (bacteria and viruses) is critical to generate new findings in basic science and possibly translate them into novel biotechnological and biomedical applications (e.g. genome editing tools, anti-infective strategies). A successful example of the application of our basic research in biotechnology and medicine is our recent discovery of an RNA-guided DNA cleavage mechanism that has been harnessed as an RNA programmable genome engineering technology and that stems from our analysis of the adaptive immune CRISPR-Cas9 system in bacterial pathogens.
MPUSP focuses on fundamental mechanisms of regulation in processes of infection and immunity with a focus on Gram-positive bacterial human pathogens. Our scientists are interested in understanding how RNAs and proteins control cellular processes on the transcriptional, post-transcriptional and post-translational level. We study regulatory RNAs and proteins in various biological pathways, such as horizontal gene transfer, adaptation to stress, physiology, persistence, virulence, infection and immunity. In particular, we investigate interference systems in the defense against genetic elements (CRISPR-Cas), small regulatory RNAs that interfere with pathogenic processes, protein quality control that regulates bacterial adaptation, physiology and virulence, basic principles of DNA replication and its role for life and interactions of bacteria and their vesicles with the human host innate immunity.
We employ an interdisciplinary approach based on a combination of cutting-edge – bioinformatics, omics, genetics, molecular, biochemical, physiological, and cell infection – methodologies to identify new molecules and mechanisms and decipher their origins, functions and modes of action at the molecular and cellular level. A pathogen mostly studied in the laboratory is S. pyogenes also called Group A streptococcus that can cause highly aggressive invasive infections such as toxic shock and necrotizing diseases. In the past years, we have utilized various other Gram-positive organisms such as Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Bacillus subtilis for our studies.