Congratulations to Alex Knowles, a PhD student from Sheffield Hallam University who was recently awarded a travel grant!
The grant enabled Alex to attend a conference in Belfast to present a poster on research undertaken into Periodontitis (gum disease), a common human medical condition characterized by inflammation of the gums, damage to periodontal tissues and ultimately tooth loss. The disease is strongly associated with Porphyromonas gingivalis, an anaerobic bacterial species that invades oral tissue and evades the host’s immune response.
During infection, P. gingivalis secretes gingipains (proteases) that degrade host cell proteins including the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), which is essential in processes including cell proliferation, cell survival and autophagy. Another bacterial pathogen, Shigella flexneri, is known to activate and dysregulate the cell’s integrated stress response (ISR) via a pathway involving mTOR, causing stress granule formation in host cells. The research group from Sheffield Hallam University theorised that P. gingivalis may activate the host’s ISR in a similar manner.
Using a Whitley A25 Anaerobic Workstation to conduct their experiments, Alex and the Sheffield team found that P. gingivalis did not directly activate the ISR pathway, but gingipains secreted into the extracellular environment did disrupt protein synthesis via stress-induced translational stalling, causing stress granules to appear within host cells. As the lysine-specific gingipain is known to degrade mTOR, this process is likely mediated through the mTOR axis.
If you are interested in our travel grants, head over to our website to see how much the grant is and what criteria you need to meet!