The evolution and adaptation of microorganisms is so rapid it can be seen in the time frame of days. The root cause for their evolution comes from selective environmental pressures that see organisms with beneficial mutations survive otherwise deadly encounters or outperform members of its population who fail to adapt. This does not always result in strict improvement of the individual as in the case of antibiotic resistant bacteria who often display fitness tradeoffs to avoid death (see Reviews [1-3]). For example, when an ampicillin resistance gene (ampC) containing plasmid that is occasionally found in the wild was transformed into S. typhimurium the bacteria had slower growth and impaired invasiveness [4]. In another example, capreomycin use with mycobacteria resulted in lower binding of the drug to the ribosome through mutations in rRNA methylase TlyA 16S rRNA, which decreases the overall fitness of the mycobacteria [5]. The evolutionary interactomes between bacteria and antibiotics do not end there, as antibiotic resistant bacteria often accumulate compensatory mechanisms to regain fitness. These range in effect with some altering individual cellular pathways and others having systemic affects [1]. My work has focused on the intersection of diabetes and related antibiotic resistant bacterial infections. Diabetes is one of the leading health issues in the United States, with over 10% of the adult population and over 26% of the elderly diagnosed (American Diabetes Association) [6]. Herein I further characterize the molecular pathways involved in diabetes, through the study of PAS kinase (PASK) function. PAS kinase is a serine-threonine protein kinase which regulates the pathways disrupted in diabetes, namely triglyceride accumulation, metabolic rate (respiration), adiposity and insulin production and sensitivity [7-9]. In this study I specifically focus on the effects of PAS kinase and its substrate, USF1/Cbf1p, and how their altered metabolic deficiencies can be suppressed using yeast cells. Through this study I further characterized the molecular function of USF1/Cbf1p through the identification of putative co-transcriptional regulators, identify novel genes involved in the regulation of respiration, and uncover a function or a previous uncharacterized protein, Pal1p. Part of the diabetes healthcare challenge results from the wide range of diseases that are associated with diabetes, including obesity [10, 11], renal failure [12, 13], neuropathies and neurodegeneration [14, 15], endocrine dysfunctions [16, 17], and cancers [18]. In addition, diabetes is a leading cause of lower limb amputations, due to poor circulation and the prevalence of ulcers [19-21], many of which are antibiotic resistant [22-25]. Phage therapy, based on the administration of bacterial viruses, is a viable option for the treatment of these diseases, with our lab recently isolating bacteriophages for several clinical cases. In the second half of my thesis, I present the study of the adaptation of bacteriophages to their hosts as well as report contributions of local ecology to their evolution.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Microbiology and Molecular Biology



Date Submitted


Document Type





Diabetes, cellular respiration, mitochondria, metabolism, CBF1, USF1, PAL1, oxidative phosphorylation, mitophagy, yeast, PASK, bacteriophage, phage, phage therapy, antibiotic resistance, evolution, Klebsiella, Erwinia



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