The College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin
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Marvin Whiteley

Main Office: NMS 3.124
Phone: (512) 471-5493

Alternate Office: NMS 3.254
Alt. Phone: (512) 475-6981

Mailing Address
The University of Texas at Austin
Molecular Biosciences
2506 Speedway Stop A5000
Austin ,TX 78712-1191

Marvin Whiteley

Research Summary

Bacteria exhibit many social activities and represent a model for dissecting social behavior at the genetic level (recently defined as sociomicrobiology). One example of social behavior in bacteria is the use of small molecules to communicate within a bacterial population, a process referred to as quorum sensing. Recent work has provided evidence that quorum sensing allows bacteria to amass a coordinated response in a density-dependent manner to accomplish tasks which would be difficult to achieve for a single bacterium. Although much is understood about the molecules used for communication, little is known about how these molecules are trafficked within a bacterial population or how these molecules are perceived by individual bacterial cells. My laboratory is interested in understanding the mechanism of signal trafficking between bacterial cells and how these signals are perceived by individual cells. We currently use two pathogenic bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans and a plant commensal Sinorhizobium meliloti to study signal trafficking and perception between bacterial cells and between bacteria and eukaryotic cells. Recent evidence in our laboratory indicates that some bacteria package signals into membrane vesicles that facilitate delivery of these molecules to other cells within the population. This mechanism of signal trafficking is significantly impacted by the nutritional environment and studies are currently under way to understand how specific nutritional cues impact the ability of bacterial cells to produce and perceive signals. The overall goal of my lab is to understand signal trafficking and perception at the molecular level as well as provide an ecological role for these communication systems in the natural environment.



Bio Sci students