Structural and cellular studies of Escherichia coli during biofilm maturation

James Garnett (primary)
Centre for Host Microbiome Interactions (CHMI), Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences
Vidya Darbari (secondary)
School of Biological and Chemical Sciences (SBCS), Faculty of Science and Engineering


The primary mode of growth for many microorganisms is through the formation of biofilms: complex multispecies cellular aggregations encased in a defensive mesh of self-produced polymers (proteins, carbohydrate, DNA). The protein SslE is secreted by a broad-range of commensal and pathogenic Escherichia coli strains and can bind to the bacterial surface or diffuse away after export. It facilitates penetration of the host gut mucosa for efficient colonization and is essential for biofilm maturation of SslE-secreting bacteria. Using structural biology, molecular microbiology and mouse infection models, this project aims to understanding the fundamental role of SslE during E. coli biofilm growth.


Baldi, D.L., Higginson, E.E., Hocking, D.M., Praszkier, J., Cavaliere, R., James, C.E., Bennett-Wood, V., Azzopardi, K.I., Turnbull, L., Lithgow, T., Robins-Browne, R.M., Whitchurch, C.B. & Tauschek, M. (2012). The type II secretion system and its ubiquitous lipoprotein substrate, SslE, are required for biofilm formation and virulence of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli. Infect. Immun. 80, 2042-52.

Belousov, M.V., Bondarev, S.A., Kosolapova, A.O., Antonets, K.S., Sulatskaya, A.I., Sulatsky, M.I., Zhouravleva, G.A., Kuznetsova, I.M., Turoverov, K.K. & Nizhnikov, A.A. (2018). M60-like metalloprotease domain of the Escherichia coli YghJ protein forms amyloid fibrils. PLoS One 13, e0191317.

Taglialegna, A., Navarro, S., Ventura, S., Garnett, J.A., Matthews, S., Penades, J.R., Lasa, I. & Valle, J. (2016). Staphylococcal Bap proteins build amyloid scaffold biofilm matrices in response to environmental signals. PLoS Pathog. 12, e1005711.

Garnett, J.A., Martínez-Santos, V.I., Saldaña, Z., Pape, T., Hawthorne, W., Chan, J., Simpson, P., Cota, E., Puente, J.L., Girón, J.A. & Matthews, S. (2012). Structural insights into the biogenesis and biofilm formation by the E. coli common pilus. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 109, 3950-3955.

Glyde, R., Ye, F., Darbari, V.C., Zhang, N., Buck, M. & Zhang, X. (2017) Structures of RNA polymerase closed and intermediate complexes reveal mechanisms of DNA opening and transcription initiation. Mol. Cell 67, 106-116.

Molecules, cells and industrial biotechnology
Area of Biology
MicrobiologyStructural Biology
Techniques & Approaches
BiochemistryBiophysicsMicroscopy / ElectrophysiologySimulation / Modelling