Laura A. Gonyar, Recipient of the 2015 Robert R. Wagner Prize

Laura A. Gonyar
Ph.D. in Microbiology, December 2014
Kendall Laboratory

Thesis:  Ethanolamine-regulated fimbriae in enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 pathogenesis

Research: Laura showed that ethanolamine (EA), which is abundant in the gastrointestinal tract, promoted the transcription of EHEC fimbriae, expression of fimbrial structures on the surface of bacterial cells, and early adherence to epithelial cells. These findings demonstrate that EHEC fimbriae are expressed in response to the biologically relevant signal EA, suggesting that fimbriae may play a role in EHEC infection. Laura further characterized two EA-regulated fimbriae, Erf1 and Erf2, and discovered that these two fimbriae influence the expression of important EHEC virulence determinants involved in later steps of EHEC pathogenesis. These observations expand on the classical function for fimbriae in pathogenesis, suggesting that EA-regulated fimbriae impact the coordinated expression of virulence genes required for later stages of EHEC infection.