The Liu Lab is interested in understanding how gene expression is controlled. Humans have ~20,000 genes, but they are not all “on” at the same time, nor are they all “off” at the same time. Proper regulation of turning “on” and “off” genes is what can distinguish a healthy cell from a diseased one.
We use a model organism for our investigations: the bacterial pathogen, Vibrio cholerae. Overall, we aim to understand the signaling mechanisms that allow V. cholerae to survive between epidemics and infections, which may provide opportunities to predict potential outbreaks and decrease disease burden. The long-term goal of our research is to define regulatory mechanisms that V. cholerae uses to coordinate physiological responses to environmental cues, in particular, the presence of various carbon sources like mannitol and fructose*. Some current projects include:
- Identify the mechanism by which expression of the gene encoding the mannitol transporter in V. cholerae is repressed
- Determine the interplay between genes involved in carbon metabolism and biofilm formation
- Map the global network of proteins and regulatory RNAs that modulate V. cholerae physiology upon nutrient shifts
*Both sugars have been implicated in V. cholerae persistence.