With the ever increasing number of fully sequenced prokaryotic genomes, there is a growing appreciation that adaptive evolution in prokaryotes is largely driven by horizontal gene transfer (HGT). HGT produces extremely dynamic bacterial genomes in which substantial amounts of DNA from distantly related organisms flow into and from the chromosome, thus effectively shaping the ecological and pathogenic character of bacterial species. Whilst the genetic mechanisms responsible for the horizontal acquisition of foreign genes (i.e., transformation of naked DNA, conjugation, and viral transduction) are well characterized, the molecular barriers to the integration of new genes within the cellular environment and networks of the recipient organism remain largely unexplored.
We aim at elucidating the molecular and systems-level mechanisms that control the accommodation of the horizontally transferred proteins, including the interaction with protein homeostasis machinery and the integration within transcriptional, metabolic and protein-protein interaction networks.
We are particularly interested in the horizontal transfer of genes involved in folate transport and metabolism. We generate and study collections of strains carrying the horizontally transferred genes using bioinformatics, microbial genetics, in vitro biophysical and biochemical molecular characterization, systems-level analysis, and high-throughput experimental evolution.