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Impact of hypermutable sequences on microbial elicitation and evasion of host immune responses

Department of Genetics and Genome Biology

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Dr Chris Bayliss No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) cause multiple human diseases including otitis media, the commonest bacterial infection in children. This disease involves influxes of host immune modulators into the middle ear in response to bacterial infection1. Infections are often chronic due to poor antibiotic efficacy and ineffective immune responses. Multiple genes of NTHi undergo phase variation (PV) mediated by mutations in repetitive simple sequence DNA tracts. PV changes the expression of virulence determinants, such as lipopolysaccharide epitopes and iron-binding proteins, and allows the bacteria to evade or manipulate host immune responses2.
This project aims to determine how PV controls elicitation of host immune responses, survival of killing by immune effectors and induction of disease symptoms. The project will involve PCR-based analysis of repetitive DNA to monitor PV; engineering of mutant strains; assaying disease phenotypes in infection models such as interaction of bacteria with immune and epithelial cells and infections in mouse models of otitis media.

Cross-institutional supervision will provide a comprehensive training opportunity across multiple institutions; bacterial genetic research undertaken with Dr. Chris Bayliss at the University of Leicester; experimental models of infection with Dr. Derek Hood at MRC Harwell; and immunological assays with Dr. Luisa Martinez-Pomares at the University of Nottingham.

Funding Notes

This project is offered as part of the MRC IMPACT Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) in Complex Diseases. This programme is a partnership between the Universities of Leicester, Birmingham and Nottingham.

For specific information on this project please contact Dr Chris Bayliss at [Email Address Removed] or by phone at 0116 2523465.


1. Duell et al. FEBS Letters 2016 590 p3840-3853.
2. Moxon, Bayliss, Hood (2006) Ann Rev Genetics 40 p307-333
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