Structural characterization of the architecture and assembly of the bacterial type III secretion system injectisome

Gram-negative bacteria such as E.coli, salmonella, shigella, pseudomonas aeruginosa, and yersina pestis are responsible for a wide range of diseases. A common trait shared by these bacteria is their capacity to inject toxins directly into the cells of infected individuals using a syringe-shaped “nano-machine” called the Type 3 Secretion System injectisome. Preventing the injectisome from performing its function would effectively prevent these bacteria from causing a disease.  

The injectisome is an important target for the development of novel treatments against bacterial infection. This research project will attempt to obtain a “map” of the injectisome at the level of individual atoms. Such a map will allow us to understand how different components interact to assemble such a “nano-machine” at the surface of the bacteria, and the mechanism by which the injectisome can inject toxins into human cells.

To map the injectisome at the level of individual atoms, Dr. Bergeron will use a range of biophysical methods, such as X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance, electron microscopy, and molecular modelling.

A map of the injectisome could be used to design novel antibiotics or vaccines, which would function against a wide range of bacteria. In addition, understanding the mechanism of this nano-machine could allow the development of microscopic targeted injection devices with a wide range of potential applications.