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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:University of Rhode Island
  • Jodi L Camberg
  • (401) 874-4961
Award Date:04/28/2021
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 288,550
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 288,550
  • FY 2021=$288,550
Start Date:07/01/2021
End Date:06/30/2023
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.074
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:EAGER: Mechanism of toxin activation and function in bacteria
Federal Award ID Number:2131099
DUNS ID:144017188
Parent DUNS ID:075705780
Program:Molecular Biophysics
Program Officer:
  • Marcia Newcomer
  • (703) 292-4778

Awardee Location

Awardee Cong. District:02

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of Rhode Island
Cong. District:02

Abstract at Time of Award

All biological organisms are exposed to environmental stress conditions, which lead to physiological responses at the cellular level. In bacteria, environmental stress can cause the production of proteins that alter metabolism, the production and maintenance of cellular components, growth, and survivability. A class of proteins comprising this physiological response to stress in bacteria includes toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems. These TA systems are produced, activated, and inactivated in the bacterial cell to control the toxin activity and modify the cellular response to stress. TA systems have also been implicated in biofilm formation, colonization, virulence, and antibiotic tolerance with implications in environment and health. However, our understanding of how TA systems are regulated is limited. Overcoming this barrier would allow for the development of new strategies to control TA system activity, thereby targeting the TA-related functions, such as tolerance to antibiotics or biofilm development. This work will utilize an integrated genetic, structural, biochemical and biophysical approach to study these important biological regulatory systems. A second outcome of this work will be a detailed understanding of how proteins, including degradative enzymes, destroy TA system components. More broadly, this project will support the training of students in this advanced, multidisciplinary field, and prepare them for a future career at the forefront of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The model TA system of MqsRA includes the ribonuclease toxin, MqsR, and its cognate antitoxin, MqsA. MqsR activation leads to cleavage of messenger RNAs at specific sequence sites. Acting as a regulatory switch, TA system activity is elicited by proteolysis of the inhibitory antitoxin, thus altering the antitoxin-toxin ratio and allowing the free toxin to become active. These studies will elucidate the recognition determinants for degradation of MqsA by two cellular proteases that enable MqsR activation. Further, this work will determine the mechanism of protease-regulated activation of toxin in live cells and evaluate roles of key stress-induced chaperones in modifying MqsA susceptibility. This approach will incorporate multidisciplinary strategies and techniques to discover the biochemical, molecular, and cellular determinants for TA system regulation to inform survival strategies in bacteria. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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