Bacteria define the planet Earth upon which we can live. They essentially occupy all available environmental niches, no matter how inhospitable and extreme these may seem to us. Bacteria are therefore masters of diversification, adaptation and resilience. For the most part their success allows our survival. As a consequence of this success however, a mere fraction of this bacterial population can inflict a significant degree of human morbidity and mortality. It is therefore essential to understand the molecular basis of this diverse bacterial physiology as it will teach us a great deal about fundamental biological processes that are the key to life. Although much on this subject is known already, such is the shear extent of bacterial diversity that our knowledge base has barely begun to scratch the surface. Hence, have no doubt that the future potential of basic and applied research in bacterial physiology and pathogenesis is enormous! To reflect on significant areas of scientific research into this subject, lectures will be divided into four core areas.
The first concerns “Principles and Applications of Bacterial Diversity,”. Lectures on this topic will aim to instruct on bacterial diversity and taxonomical classification. They will also inform on the molecular basis for life in extreme environments. Fundamental concepts of bacterial bioenergetics will also be discussed.
The second concerns “Bacterial Regulatory Networks”. The ability of bacteria to maintain biological function even when exposed to noxious environmental stresses is a hallmark of their capacity for adaptation and resilience. Lectures will instruct on the mechanisms of gene expression control at the transcriptional, post-transcriptional, translational and post-translational levels.
The third concerns “Physiological Processes of Bacteria”. Instruction will be given in global regulatory responses to environmental stress and the use of ‘omics-based’ technologies to study global regulation. Other information will also highlight mechanistic details of key biological processes including molecular transport across membranes, directed motion, communication, differentiation and development within a single bacterial cell or among a multicellular bacterial community.
The fourth concerns “Bacterial Pathogenesis and Host Responses to Infections”. This topic will detail how dangerous bacteria evolved through changes in their genetic coding potential and will highlight the consequences that these genetic changes have on the ability of bacteria to utilise humans as a new host. The steps taken by bacterial pathogens to instigate a successful infection will be depicted in some detail. This will be balanced by discussions concerning how non-specific and specific immune defence strategies displayed by a host are used to fight-off bacterial infections. Illustrative examples concerning the bacterial responsiveness to the host cell will also be given to reveal how bacterial pathogens limit expression of their virulence genes to an exact time and place during an infection. Also examined will be the alarming increase in multidrug-resistance prevalent among clinically relevant bacterial populations and the implications this has on antibacterial treatment options. Also considered will be the use of vaccines as a strategy to prevent infection.
The laboratory is a practical application of the theoretical content. This includes the implementation of self designed experiments to illustrate the isolation and classification of bacteria by a genetic-based method as well as by classical phenotypic characterization.
Bacterial Physiology and Pathogenesis, 7.5 credits
Autumn Term 2023
28 September 2023
30 October 2023
Type of studies
20 ECTS from finished courses in Chemistry, including at least 5 ECTS in Biochemistry, or alternatively, 20 ECTS from a combination of finished courses in Chemistry and Physics and/or Mathematics, including at least 5 ECTS in Biochemistry; 60 ECTS from finished courses in Biology, containing Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Cell Biology, and Physiology; practical experience of laboratory work corresponding to a minimum of 5 ECTS.