Dissertation focus: Shantelle Dandy’s project on gene expression in bacteria

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There are many opportunities to undertake microbial and molecular projects on the Biosciences courses at the University of Gloucestershire. For my dissertation I focused on molecular biology, on a project entitled ‘Investigating the methylation of genes differentially expressed in the growth phases of Pseudomonas fluorescens’, working with Dr Sally Rogers.

The main aim of my research was to find out whether P. fluorescens a soil bacterium, uses DNA methylation as a mechanism to regulate gene expression. Gene expression systems are widely studied in eukaryotes, however not much is known about how bacteria regulate gene expression. Mupirocin is an antibiotic produced by P.fluorescens as a secondary metabolite, thus it has the ability to switch this gene on and off. However, just how it does that, we don’t know. Mupirocin is the antibiotic which is currently used to treat skin infections by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA. The treatment of MRSA is one of the ongoing battles facing healthcare today. Another aim of my research was to conduct a 16s PCR on an available strain of P.fluorescens to identify it and to establish a growth curve for that strain.

In order to investigate the methylation pattern of the gene which is involved in Mupirocin production and establish a growth curve, I undertook a series of microbial and molecular techniques. Those included, culturing P.fluorescens, conducting counts at set time intervals, extracting DNA from cells, bisulphite treating DNA, bisulphite PCR, restriction enzyme digestion and gel electrophoresis.

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I feel extremely lucky to be able to do such advanced work in molecular biology in my undergraduate degree and this work has only strengthened my desire to become a molecular biologist. Anybody who is considering taking a BSc in Biology here will not be disappointed! There is such a wide range of biological fields covered, and the support from the staff is phenomenal. I can now be more confident when applying for jobs of PhDs in the field of microbial and molecular biology as I have a good grounding in lab practical experience to talk about and refer back to if I ever need it!

Shantelle Dandy (Final year B.Sc. Biology undergraduate)
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