Biophysical chemistry and synthetic biology studies of bacterial signaling processes.
Bacteria make several behavioral decisions that affect our lives ranging from beneficial symbiosis with crops to the accumulation as virulent biofilms that are characteristic of chronic infections. In bacteria, these responses are commonly mediated by two-component signaling systems (TCS) that consist of a histidine kinase (HK) that senses environmental and cellular signals, and a corresponding response regulator (RR) that mediates the cellular response such as activation of transcription. Childers lab is interested in the diversity of ways that bacteria have modified this simple signaling system to generate complex information processing systems. We apply interdisciplinary approaches that include FRET, X-ray crystallography, SAXS, NMR and mass spectrometry to map the pattern of molecular interactions and allosteric conformational changes from the initial input signals to the final behavioral response to understand how cells make decisions. We then aim to apply our knowledge towards synthetic biology approaches to engineer synthetic signaling proteins and synthetic pathways to process signals for beneficial functions. These studies broadly aim to develop foundational cellular engineering principles that can be broadly, safely and predictably be used to “program” the behavior of bacteria for biotechnological and therapeutic applications.
PhD, 2010, Department of Chemistry, Emory University
B.ChE., 1999, Department of Chemical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
2010-2015 Postdoctoral Fellow; Department of Developmental Biology, Stanford University, Advisor: Dr. Lucy Shapiro
Department of Chemistry
University of Pittsburgh
Chevonr Science Center, Room 801
219 Parkman Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15260