mRNA translation is highly conserved across all domains of life and it accounts for the largest fraction of the biomass and energy flux in microbes. My lab uses a combination of computational modeling and genome-wide measurements to investigate how bacteria regulate translation in response to environmental changes. We have found that the occurrence of certain synonymous codons in coding sequences can regulate the translational response to nutrient deprivation in E. coli and the ability to form biofilms in B. subtilis. Recently, we uncovered a novel role for ribosome collisions in stimulating premature termination of translation under these conditions. By extending our methods to mammalian cells, we delineated alternate sites of translation initiation during influenza infection that might contribute to proteomic diversity. Together, our results highlight the key role of cis-regulatory motifs for translational control in bacteria and viruses.
Nitric oxide (NO) has long been known to be an intermediate in bacterial pathways of denitrification. It is only since the middle to late 1980s that it was found to play a central role in a much broader biology context. For example, it is now well established that NO acts as a signaling agent in higher organisms. Yet NO is toxic and reactive under biological conditions. How is the biology carried out by NO controlled? How is NO used and the inherent toxicity avoided? How do organisms tell the difference between NO and O2? What is the biological output? A molecular perspective on ligand discrimination in hemoproteins has emerged as has a further understanding and predictions about selective ligand sensing and function in biology.