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When we think about bacteria, we usually don't think about the fact that their fiercest enemies may be other bacteria who are competing for the same limited environmental resources. Dr. Michele LeRoux explains that when bacteria establish and maintain communities, their interactions with one another can turn deadly. She focuses on a pathway that bacteria can use to kill their bacterial competitors, called the type six secretion system (T6SS). This secretion system is a molecular syringe made up of proteins that can inject toxins into neighboring cells. Studying this system in the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, she discovered a novel mechanism by which bacteria sense the death of members of their community and launch a counterattack. Her results explain how P. aeruginosa cells know when to activate T6SS to attack competing bacteria and protect the community from danger.
Dr. Michele LeRoux completed her Bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology at Colgate University. For her graduate work, she joined the Molecular and Cellular Biology Doctorate program at the University of Washington, where she worked with Dr. Joseph Mougous studying bacterial social behavior and interspecies warfare. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Michael Laub at MIT where she continues to study the molecular mechanisms of bacterial life.
- Bonnie Bassler iBioSeminar: Cell-Cell Communication in Bacteria
- Bonnie Bassler iBioEducation talk: Tiny Conspiracies
- Dianne Newman iBioSeminar: Microbial Diversity and Evolution
- J. Woodland Hastings iBioMagazine: Autoinduction: The Discovery of Quorum Sensing in Bacteria
- Jayme Dyer Young Scientist Series seminar: Knowing Where to Go: How Cells Drive Without Eyes
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LeRoux et. al., Quantitative single-cell characterization of bacterial interactions reveals type VI secretion is a double-edged sword. PNAS (2012) 109, 19804-9
LeRoux et al., Bacterial danger sensing. J Mol Biol (2015) 427, 3744-53
Cornforth & Foster, Competition sensing: the social side of bacterial stress responses.
Nat Rev Microbiol (2013) 11, :285-93
Hibbing et al., Bacterial competition: surviving and thriving in the microbial jungle.
Nat Rev Microbiol (2010) 8, 15-25