Natalie Bamford, a Postdoctoral Research Assistant in the lab of Nicola Stanley-Wall, has been awarded a prestigious two-year EMBO Long-term fellowship to study bacterial biofilms which will help efforts to remove biofilms when they are detrimental or, conversely, aid in the exploitation of biofilms for industrial biotechnology.
It has been estimated that ~95% of all microbial life on Earth lives in a biofilm, yet our study of these complex communities is at its relative infancy. The cells living in a biofilm have a protective “raincoat” formed of carefully organized fats, proteins, and long chains of sugars. Understanding how these communities’ function and maintain their “raincoats” is important as biofilms are involved in diverse processes that include sewage bioremediation, plant growth promotion, chronic infections, and industrial biofouling.
Natalie explains, “We study a bacterium called Bacillus subtilis that is widely used in industry and agriculture. When B. subtilis forms a biofilm, it makes two proteins called BslA and TasA that are critical for the biofilm structure and resilience. BslA interacts with itself to form a water-repellent “raincoat” over the surface of the biofilm. TasA self-assembles into filaments. However, we also know that biofilm components must be interacting with each other for the biofilm to create its resilience – we just don’t know how.
“My research aims to understand the nature of these interactions, and piece together the jigsaw puzzle of the biofilm.
“Being awarded an EMBO long-term fellowship is an honour. It will enable me to do fundamental research which is of great interest to me. It will also help me establish myself in the prestigious UK and European scientific research community after my move from Canada.”
This research will be undertaken in collaboration with Prof. Cait MacPhee from the University of Edinburgh.