PATHSENSE Research Background & Objectives:

A fundamental problem facing all living things is how to sense the prevailing conditions so that the physiological state of the organism can be modified to optimise the chances of survival, and ultimately reproductive success. This is particularly true in unicellular organisms like bacteria where the intimate interaction with their surroundings and ability to respond to subtle changes in the environment determine their immediate fate. Rapid and sensitive systems to sense and respond to environmental changes are thus a cornerstone of the cell’s survival apparatus, and understanding these sensory systems is therefore central to predicting their behaviour.

Pathsense Pathogen Research


stressosome molecular model

In the case of pathogenic microorganisms the need to understand these sensory mechanisms is acute since the fate of these pathogens is determined by the responses they produce to the sensory signals they detect. In other words their success as pathogens is largely underpinned by their ability to sense their environment in order to protect themselves and then to deploy their virulence mechanisms at the appropriate time. A deep knowledge of how their first line of defence (sensory perception) functions is a vital step in developing strategies to subvert their survival apparatus, and ultimately to preventing human, animal and plant infections. The overall objective of this project is to focus on understanding a highly sophisticated but poorly understood sensory organelle called the “stressosome” that is present in several important genera of bacteria.

PATHSENSE Research Programme

Scientific Objectives and Work Approach: To achieve its objectives the project will be structured into 5 complementary research Work Packages (WP) 1 to 5.

Work package 1: – Objective: To define the structure of the stressosome in two pathogenic bacterial species; the Gram-positive firmicute Listeria monocytogenes and the Gram-negative γ-proteobacterium Vibrio vulnificus

ESR 1, ESR 2, ESR 6, ESR 13

Work Package 2: – Objective: Determine the role played by the stressosome and its components in the physiology and cellular decision making processes of food borne pathogens

ESR 1, ESR 3, ESR 4, ESR 6, ESR 7, ESR 8, ESR 10, ESR 13

Work Package 3: – Objective: To investigate the role of stress sensing in virulence

ESR 3, ESR 4, ESR 7, ESR 8

work packages pathsense
microscope training

Work Package 4: – Objective: Determine sensory mechanisms that underpin stress sensing by the Bacillus subtilis stressosome

ESR 5 ESR 10 ESR 12, ESR 13

Work Package 5: – Objective: Use stress biosensors to develop improved preservation and antimicrobial treatment

ESR 4, ESR 5, ESR 9, ESR 11