Protein transfer during bacterial conjugations hos Biologisk Institut - Københavns Universitet


Conjugations are a bacterial sexual process in which a donor cell makes physical contact with a recipient cell, form a mating pair, and transfer a copy of the conjugative/mobilizable plasmid to the recipient cell. The genetic transfer from one cell to another enables the recipient cell to acquire additional inheritable phenotypes, such as antibiotic resistance, toxin production and adaptation to new niches. However, it remains debatable if transferred-DNA-independent proteins can move from the donor cell to the recipient cell through the mating machinery during conjugation. Such protein transfers may allow a rapid transient acquisition of non-inheritable phenotypes, leading to a quick response to sudden environmental stresses, that may play an important role in bacterial ecology and evolution. Furthermore, understanding what types of proteins can be transferred during conjugation can be employed to design a conjugation-based protein delivery system for antimicrobial therapies.

In this project, the candidate will design an assay to study the movement of protein probes during bacterial conjugation, determine the rules of transferable proteins (cell locations: cytoplasmic, membrane-bound, or periplasmic; protein size; DNA bound vs. unbound) and may use the generated knowledge to develop an antimicrobial biological agent.

Types of projects:

Development of experimental assays to monitor cell-to-cell protein movement during conjugation

Bacterial genomic engineering to integrate protein probes with different sizes, cell locations and DNA binding ability.

Techniques covered:

Fluorescence microscopy

Fluorescence-activated cell sorting

Molecular cloning and genomic manipulation

Antibiotic susceptibility assays

Conjugation assays

For more information contact:
Assistant professor Joseph Nesme, e-mail:
Professor Søren Sørensen, e-mail:


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