Microbiology Editor’s Choice: One-component regulating proteins and the development of antimicrobial resistance

Posted on April 1, 2019   by Microbiology Society

Each month, a manuscript published in our flagship journal Microbiology is chosen by a member of the Editorial Board. This month, the paper is titled ‘Functional characterization of BcrR: a one-component transmembrane signal transduction system for bacitracin resistance’ and it was chosen by Professor David Grainger.

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In this paper lead author Rachel Darnell and co-workers examine the gene regulatory response to the antimicrobial compound bacitracin. The response is mediated by an unusual “one-component” transmembrane protein that is also able to recognise DNA and regulate gene expression. This work contributes to a growing body of literature picking apart the gene regulatory pathways that underpin the bacterial response to antibiotics.


Functional characterization of BcrR: a one-component transmembrane signal transduction system for bacitracin resistance

The recent rise in antimicrobial resistance means it is essential we understand how resistance mechanisms work in order to prioritize and generate new and effective antimicrobials. Bacitracin is an antimicrobial used in both clinical and agricultural settings. Previously, we identified BcrR, a one-component regulator that can sense and respond to bacitracin. This in turn activates the expression of genes that causes high-level bacitracin resistance in Enterococcus faecalis. One-component regulators are a dominant signal transduction system in bacteria but are a very understudied area. Here we shed light on how one-component regulators can function to coordinate critical bacterial responses such as antimicrobial resistance.

We spoke with corresponding author Gregory M. Cook (@GebhardLab, @gregcoo81841252) about their research:

What is your institution and how long have you been there?

Gregory: I work in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand and I’ve been there for 20 years.

What is your research area? 

Gregory: Bacterial Physiology

What inspired you to research this topic? 

Gregory: We were the first group to uncover the mechanism of high-level bacitracin resistance in enterococci, we have worked on this novel regulatory system for the last 15 years.

What is the most rewarding part of your research?

Gregory: Seeing young postgraduate students doing outstanding research and developing as scientists

What would you be doing if you weren't a scientist?

Gregory: Professional athlete