Commensals and pathogens: deciphering their language
About the project
In the human body, different microenvironments support characteristic microfloras that play an important role in health and disease. Of particular relevance are the streptococci, which predominate in the microfloras of the oral cavity and upper respiratory tract. The pathogenic potential of these streptococci varies to a large extent, from the usually commensal oral streptococci to those associated with high mortality and morbidity rates, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae and Streptococcus pyogenes.
The project focuses on understanding how streptococcal regulatory systems, in particular the competence signaling system in oral streptococci and S. pneumoniae, may play a role in the pathogenic or commensal relationships with the host. Molecular genetics, microarrays, microscopy (atomic force microscopy, transmission and scanning electron microscopy), as well as functional models of biofilm, competence and epithelial interactions are among the approaches used in our investigations. Understanding how streptococci with distinct pathogenic potential may use their signaling systems to regulate colonization and virulence may lead to novel strategies to fight infections.