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MEMBERSHIP  ::  Meet the Microbiologist

Meet the Microbiologist

Exploring bacterial toxin gene evolution using bioinformatics

Bacterial pathogens often employ protein toxins to damage, destroy, or otherwise disable host cells. As a result, toxins are a key component of host-pathogen relationships, and there are now a large variety of toxin genes known to exist in various bacterial phyla. Despite the large variety of known toxin genes and toxic mechanisms, comparatively little is known about how these genes evolve: where they originate, how they gain and maintain their function, and how they are spread between microbes. Answering these questions is central in attaining a complete understanding of pathogen biology, as well as understanding the downstream effects of toxin genes on human health. By using bioinformatic techniques, we can take advantage of the recent expansion in sequencing information, giving access to a much wider data set of toxin genes and thereby making these problems more soluble.

Michael Mansfield

My research interests are in protein evolution, and particularly the evolution of the botulinum neurotoxin. In addition to being the deadliest known toxin, it also provides an interesting case study in molecular evolution owing to its highly unique structure and function. More broadly, I am interested in the problem of determining how proteins gain novel functions, and examining cases of neofunctionalization in nature. 

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Contact Information
University of Waterloo
200 University Ave. N
Waterloo,  N2l3G1

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Ottawa, ON K1G 4S3

Tel: (613) 421-7229

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