A Year in Review
Well, as they say, another year has come and gone, and as we all celebrate the holidays and make our way into 2023, we thought it would be nice to look back at the year and everything that went on in the MicroPop group. As usual, you can read all about our updates in more detail down below here on the website, but let’s take a look at some of the highlights of our last year here in the group!
First and foremost, there were LOTS of publications that came out of the group this year, many of which featured MicroPop researchers as first and last authors. All of the papers are linked into this page, so feel free to scroll down and check them out when you get the chance!
Now on a similar note, papers and publications are great, but there’s nothing quite like getting some additional attention and visibility from the greater public, and that’s actually exactly what happened this year for both Jónína S. Guðmundsdóttir and Dr. Christopher Fröhlich.
As a follow-up to her publication in eBioMedicine, Jonina was interviewed and featured in a piece on forskning.no. And as for Dr. Fröhlich, his work was featured in an article on NRK, highlighting some of the important considerations for developing an effective antibiotic treatment plan.
If you ask me, both of them are basically famous in Norway now, right?!
Another prominent theme of 2022 was mobility and travel, with the group participating in and attending numerous conferences, symposiums, and even exchanges. Of course, the annual ECCMID conference was by far the most fruitful and prestigious, and this year, MicroPop had the pleasure of sending Julia Kloos, Vidar Sørum, Jónína Guðmundsdóttir, Christopher Fröhlich, and many more to Lisbon!
At the conference, Jonina and Chris were invited to give talks, and Vidar’s poster was selected as one of 24 outstanding abstracts to be recognized as top rated posters at the entire conference! Needless to say, I think MicroPop did an amazing job this year at ECCMID!
Also in the same month, Jonina and Miriam Nilsen traveled over to Gothenburg, Sweden for a week long intensive course on antibiotics with 40 other students from al over Scandinavia. In addition to the course itself and the diverse range of speakers, there was of course plenty of time for networking, mingling, and sharing each others’ work.
The following month, Christopher took a little hop over the pond to the University of Bristol for a quick research stay, funded and supported by Biocat. And in June, instead of traveling around, the annual AMR-Bridge meeting for Trond John funded projects came to Tromsø, taking place at the Arctic Hotel on Sommarøy. Of course, several of our group members attended, and it was as always a great opportunity to share research, network with other researchers, and foster collaboration with other groups across the country.
But we’re not done with the mobility yet!
After a relatively calm and quiet summer, Joao Gama traveled to Toulouse, France, where he attended and presented at the International Symposium on Plasmid Biology. And finally, in the beginning of November, the annual IBA conference was held down in Oslo, and the majority of the MicroPop group submitted abstracts and attended, representing Tromsø and the great work being done at MicroPop and UiT.
We’re of course just scratching the surface of all the great things that have happened in MicroPop this year, but as you can see, we’ve all been quite busy!
Now, as things have begun to wind down, and the holiday season is in full swing, it’s time for us all to take some time to be with our friends and family, refresh and rejuvenate for the months ahead, and to prepare to usher in a brand new year of more publications, collaborations, conferences, and more.
So, on that note, from all of us in MicroPop, we wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year.
We can’t wait to see all that 2023 has in store, but until then, we’ll see you in the new year!
From September 18th through the 23rd, Joao Gama attended to annual International Symposium on Plasmid Biology down in Toulouse, France (the ISPB2022). The annual conference covers all aspects of plasmids and what known as mobile genetic elements (MBEs). This includes topics ranging from genomics and systems biology, medical biotechnology, epidemiology, evolution, and the overall role of plasmids in bacterial pathogenesis.
At the conference, Joao gave a talk during Session 6 (Evolution of Plasmids & other MGEs) about MicroPop's paper, "Piggybacking on Niche Adaptation Improves the Maintenance of Multidrug-Resistance Plasmids". Plasmids play a significant role in the antibiotic resistance crisis, specifically the maintenance of plasmids and mobile genetic elements. In the paper, Julia Kloos, Joao Gama, et all explore a possible explanation for the maintenance of these plasmids, of course setting the stage for further research on the subject.
Great job on the talk Joao, and if you would like to learn more about both the conference and the paper itself, they are linked in right above so feel free to check them out!
How often should we actually be taking antibiotics?
Everyone knows that it's required to take the full course of antibiotics that you're prescribed in order to completely eliminate an infection (well, hopefully everyone knows this by now!), but new research is suggesting that there may be a little bit more to it.
New research published by Hanna-Kirsti Schrøder Leiros and Christopher Fröhlich has shown that there is potential for resistance-inducing mutations to emerge within the body during a course of antibiotics. During the time in between doses, specifically right before a new dose, concentrations of antibiotics are typically very low; low enough to trigger such mutations and potentially lead to resistance.
The research brings into question just how often we should be taking these drugs when treating an infection. Perhaps it might be 'safest' to take the drugs in shorter intervals to create a more sustained level of them within the body? Of course, more research is needed before we can draw any conclusions, but NRK actually picked up their work and featured it in a story up on their website earlier this month!
The article is written in Nynorsk, but you can check it out by following the link here! Congratulations for making it into national news Hanna Kirsti and Chris, you're both basically famous now!
Despite summer being in full swing, July has turned out to be quite a busy month in the MicroPop group! For starters, two new papers have officially been published, featuring Vidar Sørum and Christopher Fröhlich!
The first, titled Evolutionary Instability of Collateral Susceptibility Networks in Ciprofloxacin-Resistant Clinical Escherichia coli Strains, explores collateral sensitivity and resistance in E. coli cells. Collateral sensitivity and resistance refers the process in which a bacteria loses resistance traits in favor of developing another one. In other words, developing resistance to one type of drug may potentially result in decreased resistance to another; a trade-off of sorts.
The study sought out to investigate just how stable subsequent, collateral resistance traits were, as stability is what helps us to predict the course of antibiotic resistance development.
However, the paper found that such collateral resistances and effects are not entirely stable, and this could complicate both treatment strategies (especially in the coming years as AMR becomes more widespread) and predicting the course of antibiotic resistance.
The second paper features Christopher as the first author, titled Evolution of β-lactamase-mediated cefiderocol resistance. As the title suggests, this study aimed to investigate possible resistance development against the new drug cefiderocol. Cefiderocol is a novel β-lactam with improved hydrolytic stability toward β-lactamases, including carbapenemases. Currently, cefiderocol represents a treatment alternative for infections caused by MDR Gram-negatives.
However, through directed evolution, the study ultimately showed that with the acquisition of just one or two mutations, all β-lactamases were evolvable to develop and/or further increase cefiderocol resistance. In other words, the drug, while effective now, will almost certainly face the same fate as all other β-lactam, with bacteria eventually becoming resistant to it.
But enough talk about the doom and gloom of AMR; there were some lighter things happening this month as well! Specifically, from July 7th-8th, the ESCMID Study Group on Epidemiological Markers (ESGEM) held the online course "Moving beyond single species outbreaks: the role of mobile genetic elements". As part of the course, Dr. João A Gama of MicroPop was an invited speaker and gave a lecture titled "Plasmid transmission and persistence" during Session 1 (Introduction to mobile genetic elements) on the first day.
And just like that, the first half of the year has come and gone! With some interviews, publications, meetups, and even major conferences, I think it’s safe to say the 2022 is shaping up to be quite a busy and active year for us in the MicroPop group, wouldn’t you?
But for now, let’s all slow down a little bit, take some time to enjoy the warm summer weather, and take a well deserved vacation before jumping head first into the rest of the year. So from all of us in the MicroPop group, god sommer and we’ll see you in the fall!
From June 12th through June 14th, the annual AMR-Bridge meetings took place in Sommarøy at the Arctic Hotel, where several members of MicroPop were in attendance. The AMR-Bridge meetings are joint meeting for the Trond Mohn funded projects, which you can learn more about in the 'Projects' section of the MicroPop website. In short, the AMR-Bridge initiative is designed to help combat the emerging threat of antibiotic resistance through research, collaboration, discussion, and dissemination.
The first part of the sessions, entitled "AMR and Population Genomics", took place on the 12th-13th, and were hosted by the University of Oslo (UiO) and represented by Jukka Corander. The annual meeting followed from the 13th-14th, in which presentations were held by all partners involved in AMR-Bridge, including NTNU, Haukeland University Hospital, the University of Oslo, and the University of Tromsø.
The main goal of the annual meeting is to review and discuss AMR research over the past year, and disseminate the results and findings. Overall, this was another great meeting, and a lot insights, ideas, and potential collaborations and follow-ups were shared and introduced, so we're all very much looking forward to see what comes out of it and check back in at next year's meeting!
From May 18th to May 26th, our PostDoc Chris Fröhlich was able to visit the University of Bristol to investigate the occurring evolutionary changes within the enzymatic reaction mechanisms in more detail. With the help of Adrian Bunzel, who is currently working as a PostDoc in Ross Andersson´s group, they were able to use a stopped-flow approach, in which chemical reactions with a half time of the order of 1 millisecond can be characterized. This allowed them to shed light on the changes in substrate binding, the acylation, as well as the deacylation mechanisms during the evolution of OXA-48.
On behalf of Chris and all of us at MicroPop, we would like to thank Biocat for providing the financial support for this research stay, as well as Adrian and Ross for their help and hospitality.
In addition, earlier in the month, for the first time, physically in-person and not online due to the pandemic, the Pint of Science festival took place in Norway. Pint of Science is a global science festival where scientists all around the globe discuss their findings with people in their local pub, bar, cafe or similar public space.
The first evening of the festival in Tromsø took place at one of our local pubs, Prelaten, where PhD candidate Jónína, who also volunteers for the festival, was one of the nights speakers. Strongly cheered on from other group members sitting in the audience. For more information about the festival visit: www.pintofscience.no.
April has turned out to be quite a busy month in the MicroPop group! As all of us in the field know, with April comes the annual European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID). This year, ECCMID was held in Lisbon, Portugal, and a large part of the group traveled to Lisbon to attend the 32nd conference!
The group presented two different posters; both Julia Kloos and Vidar Sørum (researchers in the group) presented their respective posters during the Sunday poster session, where Vidar’s poster was picked as one of 24 outstanding abstracts to be recognised as top rated posters at the conference.
In addition to the posters, both Jónína Sæunn Guðmundsdóttir (PhD candidate in the group) and Christopher Fröhlich (a postdoc closely associated with MicroPop) were selected to give oral presentations on their respective projects, where Jónína’s abstract was one of the 100 abstracts with the highest scores awarded a travel grant.
Congratulations to everyone presenting and we hope all of you enjoyed Lisbon and the conference!
But ECCMID wasn't the only event happening in April! In addition, just a few weeks before the conference from April 4th through April 8th, PhD candidates Jónína S. Guðmundsdóttir and Miriam Nilsen traveled to Hjortviken, Sweden, just outside of Gothenburg, where they attended a week-long intensive course on antibiotics and antibiotic resistance from a microbial perspective and from a clinical - One Health perspective.
The course consisted of many early career researchers and PhD students from Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and offered a unique networking opportunity with more than 20 international speakers and 40 students in attendance, all of whom presented their own research projects during one of multiple poster sessions scheduled throughout the week.
During the sessions, Jónína presented her project on the search for cancer drugs driving the evolution of antibiotic resistance and Miriam presented her project focused on disclosing the biofilmome of E. coli bacteria.
An article featuring an interview with our PhD candidate Jónína S. Guðmundsdóttir was published on forskning.no as a follow up on her recent publication in eBioMedicine. The article, which is in Norwegian, can be found on the following link: https://forskning.no/bakterier-kreft/kreftmedisin-kan-gi-antibiotikaresistens/1993632.
In the article and interview, Jónína describes the scope of her work, in which she has found that certain cancer medications can lead to resistance arising in bacteria. This is certainly a troubling discovery given both the widespread use of cancer drugs and the increasing prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria, making this research all the more important in our fight to combat the threat of antibiotic resistance around the world!
The new year has just begun but it’s already gotten off to an awesome start with some great news coming out of the MicroPop group! For starters, at the very end of 2021, Jonina Gudmundsdóttir published her first-authorship article, “The chemotherapeutic drug methotrexate selects for antibiotic resistance” in the December issue of EBioMedicine! The title speaks for itself, but it can have major implications for how we go about treating both cancer and bacterial infections in the very near future, so when you have a minute we encourage you to head on over and check it out!
In addition, by the look of how things are going in regards to Covid-19, the 32nd European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) is seeming more and more likely to occur in person! This year, the conference will be held in Lisbon, and several of our group members have already been offered poster presentations and/or oral presentations.
For starters, Julia Kloos, Lea Jänisch, Anna K Pöntinen, Ørjan Samuelsen, Pål Johnsen, Jukka Corander, and João Gama will likely all be attending and presenting a poster titled “Different metabolic proficiency among dominant ExPEC lineages”.
Two of our group members, Jonina Gudmundsdóttir and Christopher Fröhlich, have been invited to give oral presentations during the session “Molecular evolution and new resistance mechanisms in Gram-negatives”. Chris will present his abstract “Positive epistasis drives the molecular evolution of the carbapenemase OXA-48”, while Jonina will present her abstract “The search for cytostatic drugs driving the evolution of antimicrobial resistance”.
And last but certainly not least, Vidar Sørum will be presenting a poster titled “Evolution of ß-lactamase mediated cefiderocol resistance”. What’s more, not only was the abstract approved and offered a poster, but we’re thrilled to announce that it was also awarded for the top-rated poster selection!
We’ll of course publish some more information about ECCMID as it gets closer, but regardless, we’re incredibly honored for all of the invitations we’ve received and we’re very excited to attend and once again get back to in-person events and networking!
Well, another year has come and gone, and needless to say, 2021 was once again a year far from normal. Conferences, collaborations, talks and teachings, all of the things that we scientists tend to take for granted were a bit different once again, but that certainly didn’t stop us from making the most of it and ultimately having an incredibly busy year!
Of course, you can read all about our updates in more detail down below here on the website, but before we move forward into 2022, let’s take a look back at some of the highlights of our last year here in the MicroPop group!
Starting from a strict publication perspective, 2021 was a very busy year with over 12 publications coming out of the group! Among them, 4 have MicroPop members as first authors, with 2 of those being part of the PhD theses of Julia Kloos and Christopher Fröhlich (both of whom sailed through their defenses and rightfully earned their titles of Doctor). On a similar note, 4 of our master students graduated with their degrees this year as well. Emma Lu Øynes and Anna Solid graduated with their Masters in Medicine degrees towards the end of the year with supervisors Pål, Ørjan, and Vidar, and Mia Nilsen and Marianne Svare obtained their Masters in Pharmacy, with supervisors Elizabeth and João.
Phew, that’s quite a list for one year, isn’t it?
Now, publications and degrees aside, we all know that knowledge exchange is another vital part of academia, and being the MicroPop group, not even a global pandemic could stop us from networking, presenting, and sharing our work with the rest of the world, be it digital or in person!
Given the circumstances though, most of the talks and presentations we participated in were conducted digitally, like the Annual Conference of the Microbiology Society and the Virtual Meeting of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. The same can be said regarding many of our visitors as well. From Professor Bruce Levin of Emory University to Laura Carrilero of the University of Sheffield, Dr. André Carvalho of the Institut Pasteur to Fredrika Rajer of Uppsala University, we were treated to multiple digital visits and guest speakers throughout the year, each one expanding our network and sparking ideas for future projects and collaborations.
But not everything was restricted to Teams and Zoom! Luckily, we were still able to physically attend the annual IBA conference here in Norway this year, where Jonina, Mikkel, and Miriam presented their work in posters and oral presentations down in Oslo.
And of course, we can’t wrap it all up without briefly mentioning the many new faces that joined the ranks of the MicroPop group this year! For starters, we welcomed two new PhD students, Miriam Nilsen and Øyvind Lorentzen, as well as masters student Nora and Erasmus student Lea Jänisch. In addition, we had the pleasure of hosting Anna Pöntinen, a Marie Curie postdoc, on an exchange from her current group in Oslo for six months.
All in all, 2021 was certainly a year for the books for all of us, and we think it’s safe to say that we made the most out of it!
So, as we move into 2022, here’s to everything that was accomplished in the last year. From the ups and the downs to the highs and the lows, to all of the challenges and all of the opportunities, it’s certainly been a whirlwind of a year, and we can’t wait to see what the next one has in store! So, from all of us in the MicroPop group, we wish you a happy, healthy, and fruitful 2022!
On November 1st and 2nd, the National Graduate School in Infection Biology and Antimicrobials (IBA) held their annual meeting down in Oslo at the Thon Conference Universitetsgaten. With over 100 participants in attendance from all across the country, it was a much welcomed return to in-person networking, and the MicroPop group had the pleasure of sending 4 of our scientists to present their work!
To start, our new PhD student Miriam Nilsen had the opportunity to present a poster outlining the first part of her project, “Disclosing the biofilmome of Escherichia coli”.
Next, Anna Pöntinen gave a presentation on her latest work, titled “Apparent nosocomial adaptation of Enterococcus faecalis predates the modern hospital era”. The scope of her work involves studying the origins of antibiotic resistant strains of modern bacteria.
Interestingly enough, analytical and sequencing technology has shown that many of these strains predate modern hospitals and antibiotics. In fact, some strains of Enterococcus faecalis that are associated with hospitals and antibiotics appear to have emerged in the mid-1800s. In other words, our usage of antibiotics isn’t the only cause of antibiotic resistance development!
Jónína Sæunn Guðmundsdóttir also had the opportunity to give a presentation at the conference, presenting some of the latest data from her project, “The search for cytotoxic drugs driving the evolution of antibiotic resistance”, a semi high-throughput screening project that she has been working on throughout the course of the pandemic.
The project looks into the role that certain cancer chemotherapy drugs have on the development of antibiotic resistance in E. Coli strains, and how big of an influence these drugs have on them.
And finally, Mikkel Liljegren presented current work on Short-Patch Double Illegitimate Recombination (SPDIR). Short-Patch Double Illegitimate Recombination is a rare but potentially very impactful type of mutation that creates a patch of new DNA in a new location in the chromosome, partially replacing what was there before.
The talk explained the SPDIR concept and data in the process of publication on how what’s known as the ssDNA-binding complex (consisting of the SSB, RecA and DprA proteins) plays a role in repressing SPDIR mutations. When these proteins are removed from bacteria under growth, the result are a direct increase in SPDIR mutations, while overexpressing them appears to decrease the frequency of the mutation.
You all did and amazing job at IBA this year and we’re all looking forward to seeing what the MicroPop group brings to next year’s annual meeting!
We also have a new paper out from the MicroPop group that kicked off the month, and this one crosses international waters!
Klaus Harms and Pål Johnsen teamed up with colleagues from Exeter, U.K., to write an opinion paper about acquisition of antimicrobial resistance through natural transformation. Freshly published in the journal Current Opinion in Microbiology. Biotic and abiotic factors drive emergence of resistance often in unforeseen was, as exemplified by interactions with mobile genetic elements or by the role of environmental pollutants: context is everything, as the title says.
Brexit is nothing: Kudos to Macaulay Winter, Angus Buckling and Michiel Vos from Penryn Campus in Devon for the fine collaboration. You can head over and read the full paper here: https://www.
And lastly, in the true spirit of this Covid-19 era, on November 11th Pål had the privilege of remotely hosting a seminar with the Eberly College of Science at Penn State University, and the Center of Infectious Disease Dynamics (CIDD). The seminar was titled Can we reverse antibiotic resistance?, and in it, Pål shared a lot of the current research, projects, and findings coming out of the MicroPop group, a well as their implications in combatting this urgent global problem.
As we all know, knowledge transfer through semiars and sessions like this is a critical part of research, so we're excited to see the emerging research and collaborations to come from the seminar!
From October 18th through 22nd, the National Graduate School in Infection Biology and Antimicrobials (IBA) held the MBI-8005 Advanced Antimicrobial Resistance Course here at UiT. Attended by PhD students from all across the country, the course sought to provide detailed insights and knowledge of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria, including it's mechanisms, detection, causes, clinical significance, and much more.
What's more, our very own João Gama had the pleasure to present and give a talk to the students on the 19th, pictured below. Great job João, and we're sure that the students learned a lot from your talk and presentation!
In addition, we have a couple of additional new faces that we would like to welcome into the MicroPop group!
First, we are hosting Lea Jänisch (24) on her Erasmus internship until March 2022. Lea just finished her bachelor studies in Biochemistry at Freie Universität Berlin and wrote her bachelor thesis at the Robert Koch Institute at the department for Nosocomial Pathogens and Antibiotic Resistances in Wernigerode, Germany.
She will now study the interactions between relevant antibiotic-resistant mutations and circulating plasmids to determine the interactions between them. Besides work, Lea enjoys hiking and playing board games, so we think she'll feel right at home here in Tromsø!
In addition, we'd also like to welcome Nora to the group! Nora (23) is a medical student from Oslo who just started working on her master thesis with MicroPop group. She is working with João Gama on the evolution of multidrug resistance in clinical E.coli strains, and how mutations and plasmids interact. Besides work, she enjoys Scuba diving, hiking, and watching numerous TV shows.
A warm welcome to the both of you, and we're all very much looking forward to an interesting time ahead!
With the start of a new semester here at UiT, we would like to give a warm welcome to two of our newest PhD students, Miriam Kristine Nilsen and Øyvind Myrvoll Lorentzen! Below, you'll find a brief bio about both Miriam and Øyvind, and we're all very excited to work with them and have some fresh faces in the MicroPop group!
Miriam is a Tromsø local who has completed both her bachelor's and master's degree here at the university, and is now working with Elizabeth G. Aarag Fredheim to study the biofilmome of E. coli cells.
Øyvind (28) is a Tromsø local who recently graduated as a medical doctor from UiT. He is now working as a PhD-student in MicroPop where he studies c-di-GMP signaling, biofilm evolution and antibiotic resistance in Vibrio cholerae. Øvind has been studying V. cholerae as a medical research student alongside medical school for the last five years, therefore, some of you have probably seen him around IFA from time to time. Outside of work, he enjoys climbing and watching/playing football.
On Friday, August 27th, PhD student Christopher Fröhlich of the LacZymes group (and a close collaborator and associate with MicroPop) defended his thesis “On the Evolvability of OXA-48: A comprehensive study of new functions within the β-lactamase OXA-48”.
The thesis outlined the work Chris has been doing over the last four years on the bacterial enzyme known as OXA-48, a widespread and problematic enzyme that is very effective at breaking down many of our current antibiotics. His research shows how even low levels of antibiotics, like those commonly found in the environment thanks to agricultural use and human misuse, can trigger the evolution of this enzyme and result in resistance development.
In other words, our chronic overuse of antibiotics is allowing for bacteria to evolve and grow stronger and stronger against them. This has become so problematic that we are now facing more and more infections each year that cannot be cured with antibiotics.
The thesis also explored the various outcomes of ‘forcing’ this type of evolution in bacterial strains to try and better understand how these enzymes evolve. If we can better understand the mechanisms of evolution, we may be able to better predict emerging resistance and thus develop better tools to combat it.
After presenting his work, Chris and opponents Professor Guido Werner and Professor Gustav Vaaje-Kolstad engaged in a very fruitful and engaging discussion on the subject and his work, ultimately culminating in Chris receiving the title of doctor! You can read more about the defense itself and Chris’s thesis here.
Congratulations Chris, and we’re all looking forward to seeing more of your work in the near future!
Chris Fröhlich, a PhD student of the LacZymes research group who is closely associated with and collaborates with the MicroPop group, has just receieved word that his thesis was officially accepted! He will be defending on the 27th of August, and a link to the livestream will be provided in the coming weeks.
Chris's thesis explores the evolutionary mechanisms behind one of the most common, and problematic, resistance enzymes that breaks down penicillin-like antibiotics. These enzymes and their subsequent evolution are a driving force behind the growing antibiotic resistance crisis, and better understanding them can help us to develop new treatment strategies before it's too late. The popular abstract reads as follows:
The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the dimensions, and deadly impact microbes can have on our lives. Similarly, the rise of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, drugs used to treat infections, is often referred to as a “silent pandemic”. Already to date, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have lost their lives to infections caused by bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics. Here, we used evolution to understand how resistance develops against penicillin-like antibiotics in one of the most troublesome resistance mechanisms. We identified that very low antibiotic concentrations, similar to what can be found in the environment, can drive resistance development substantially. Further, resistance development to one antibiotic often made bacteria susceptible towards other antibiotics. Ultimately, these findings can be used to improve antibiotic treatment strategies and to combat the “silent pandemic” caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Congratulations Chris and good luck on your defense!
June has shaped up to be a very exciting month here in the MicroPop group! We have had a lot of students submitting their these over the weeks, both master students and PhD's and even a new publication being released!
To start, this month our PhD student Jónína S. Guðmundsdóttir had the opportunity to attend a 2-day young researcher workshop on science communication. The workshop was a part of an AMR-Bridge collaboration and given by one of Norway’s most known science communicators Jo Røislien. As a part of the workshop everyone attending got tasked with filming themselves making a 1 minute long popular science presentation of their projects. Jónína’s contribution in the workshop resulted in the following video.
On June 15th, two more of our master students submitted and defended their theses!
First, Marianne Svare defended her thesis titled "Biofilm formation in clinical isolaes of Escherichia coli", officially earning her Master of Pharmacy degree.
On the same day, Mia Nilsen defended her thesis, entitled "Biofilm-related characteristics of clinical isolaes of ExPEC", also earning her her Master of Pharmacy degree.
Congratulations to the both of you from all of us at MicroPop!
On Friday June 11th, our very own Julia Kloos defended her PhD thesis, titled “Horizontal transfer, selection and maintenance of antibiotic resistance determinants.”
Her thesis consisted of three studies aimed at understanding the various mechanisms by which bacteria acquire and maintain antimicrobial resistance, with additional research into whether or not evolution-based treatment strategies could help to limit this resistance development and trea such infections more effectively.
In the first study, clinically isolated and resistant E. coli strains were analyzed and found to display strikingly similar changes in antibiotic susceptibility.
In the second, mobile genetic elements (called transposons) found in soil were shown to be another mechanism for acquiring resistance, and the mechanisms behind how bacteria take up this DNA from the environment was further examined.
And in her third study, a novel mechanism by which bacteria acquire and maintain plasmids (an additional type of mobile genetic element that can lead to multidrug resistance) was revealed and analyzed.
More work needs to be done in this field, as antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest threats to medicine as we know it, but needless to say, Julia did an excellent job both presenting and defending her work, earning her the title of doctor! Congratulations Dr. Kloos!
On June 8th, in collaboration with Nobuhiko Tokuriki’s lab at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Chris Fröhlich’s review was published in Protein Engineering, Design and Selection titled Evolution of β-lactamases and enzyme promiscuity. In the review, the evolutionary path of two major classes of β-lactamases was looked at and studied, including the potential origin of such evolutionary pathways.
It’s commonly known that β-lactamases are associated with antibiotic resistance (as these β-lactamase enzymes break down β-lactam antibiotics), and can evolve with low-level exposure to antibiotics. But what’s more intriguing is the fact that these proteins and enzymes have been evolving for (likely) billions of years, well before the first antibiotics were developed.
This paper attempts to understand this evolution, especially the origins of these different β-lactamases, by looking at possible evolutionary connections in protein functions between β-lactamases and other enzymes.
To start the month off, on June 3rd, Oda-Mari Anfinsen defended her thesis entititled "Behaviour of E. coli ST131 regarding the acquisition of a blaOXA-48 encoding plasmid." Upon defending, Oda recieved the degree of Master of Pharmacy.
May has been a pretty eventful month for the MicroPop group! As part of the BATTALION Project, our nationwide, longitudinal, microbial population study here in Norway has been published in Lancet Microbe. Funded by the Trond Mohn Foundation national program on antibiotic resistance, this study took advantage of NORM, Norway’s surveillance system for antimicrobial resistance, and collected 3397 E. coli bacteraemia isolates from 15 clinical microbiology labs from 2002-2017. Of those, 3254 isolates were successfully sequenced at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.
Key findings of the study include that a multidrug resistant, high-risk clone, known as CC131, showed the largest clonal expansion over time, and it is the most important clone responsible for the increase in ESBL-prevalence and fluoroquinolone resistance in Norway. More interestingly, we found the early and sustained establishment of a predominantly antibiotic susceptible CC131 subclade in the population, suggesting that antibiotic resistance is not necessary for clonal success.
In addition, we're also excited to announce several newly published papers that have come out of the MicroPop group! Check out the full texts below!
Cryptic β-Lactamase Evolution Is Driven by Low β-Lactam Concentrations. mSphere. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem when it comes to treating bacterial infections, with one of the main culprits being the constant presence of antibiotics at low concentrations. In this paper, we sought out to better understand the importance of β-lactams specifically, as these are the most commonly used antibiotics.
The data from our study indicated that this β-lactam exposure leads to heightened diversity in β-lactamase enzymes (the bacterial enzymes responsible for breaking down β-lactams and resulting in resistance). As a result, the exposure can promote the diversification of β-lactamases, creating a problematic genetic diversity of resistance. In other words, this can lead to numerous different bacterial strains, all with β-lactam resistance to some degree. Christopher Fröhlich, João Alves Gama, Klaus Harms, Viivi Hirvonen, Bjarte A Lund, Marc van der Kamp, Pål J Johnsen, Ørjan Samuelsen, Hanna-Kirsti S Leiros. 2021.
Cardiolipin aids in lipopolysaccharide transport to the gram-negative outer membrane. PNAS. Gram-negative bacterial infections are notoriously difficult to treat with antibiotics, as the bacteria have a unique outer membrane composed of lipopolysaccharides (LPS) and glycerophospholipids. These two components combine to create a unique permeability that can prove difficult for drugs to penetrate.Understanding this membrane and the mechanisms behind its permeability can help to develop better and more effective antibiotic therapies to treat such infections, and that is what we sought to investigate using E. coli. In this study, we were able to identify a strong association between the glycerophospholipids and lipopolysaccharides, finding that a complete array of glycerophospholipids are required to efficiently transport LPS. This association provides insight into how E. coli modifies its lipid composition in order to maintain this outer membrane’s formidable barrier function. Martin V. Douglass, François Cléon, M. Stephen Trent. 2021.
Piggybacking on Niche Adaptation Improves the Maintenance of Multidrug-Resistance Plasmids. Molecular Biology and Evolution. Plasmids are small, extrachromosomal DNA molecules that are commonly found within bacterial cells. Although they are not considered a form of life, plasmids replicate independently within their host cell, and oftentimes contain genes that benefit the host organism, like those that lead to antibiotic resistance.Until fairly recently, our understanding of the evolutionary dynamics between host and plasmid has been limited, and most recent advancements relate to laboratory strains as opposed to clinical strains. In this report, we sought out to better understand these dynamics in clinical strains, specifically in regards to the effects two clinical plasmids encoding two different carbapenamases (enzymes that drive antibiotic resistance) had on the fitness of clinically isolated E. coli strains. Julia Kloos, João Alves Gama, Joachim Hegstad, Ørjan Samuelsen, Pål J Johnsen.
Tn1 transposition in the course of natural transformation enables horizontal antibiotic resistance spread in Acinetobacter baylyi. Microbiology. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest emerging threats to public health, and understanding how AMR spreads and evolves is of the utmost importance. One method of AMR spread is horizontal gene transfer, when new genetic material is acquired by a cell through conjugation, transduction, or natural transformation, with the latter being the focus of this study.
Natural transformation is when a cell uptakes, and then integrates, free DNA from its environment, mostly in the form of genetic platforms like plasmids, transposons, and integrons. Transposons are particularly troubling, as they have been observed to move from molecular to molecular within clinical pathogens, potentially spreading transposon-embedded AMR-determinants. In our study, we sought out to quantify and characterize (at the molecular level) the transposition of specific transposons during this process to better understand the exact mechanisms of AMR spread. Julia Kloos, Pål J. Johnsen1, Klaus Harms. 2020.
Bacterial evolution on demand. eLife. As we all know, bacteria are the most abundant lifeform on Earth, inhabiting nearly every environment known to man and displaying an incredible degree of genetic flexibility. In fact, this flexibility is one of the main reasons as to why they are so successful globally. This genetic flexibility is in part due to their use of mobile genetic elements; pieces of genetic material that can be transferred from one cell to another and enable bacteria to acquire new genes.
In this insight piece, we look at some of the mechanisms of integrons, one such genetic element, and explore how they help bacteria evolve while maintaining a balance between cost and benefit, as AMR-conferring genes tend to come with a high cost. Pål J Johnsen, João Alves Gama, Klaus Harms. 2021
Finishing out the month, our very own Emma Lu Øynes submitted her thesis on May 31st, titled "In vivo gene editing: Transferring of non-selectable mutation in rpoS into E. coli using PORTMAGE"! Congratulations Emma on both your work and recieving your Master's degree!
On May 27th, João Gama attended the conference Plasmids Around the Globe 2021, an online event that was organized by the International Society for Plasmid Biology and Other Mobile Genetic Elements. This conference is designed to feature and highlight the young researchers in the field, both students and postdocs. At conference, João had the pleasure of being a speaker, where he presented "Plasmid Cost Alleviation as a Consequence of Niche-Adaptation".
On February 25th, Pål had the pleasure of serving as an opponent in the PhD defense of Dr. Petter Langlete from the University of Oslo. Petter's thesis dove into the isolation of extracellular vesicles in bacterial cells, specifically in regards to characterising and understanding their genetic cargo. Vesicles are small 'sacs' that are secreted from the membranes of living cells, and they play important roles in things like vaccine and drug development, cancer treatments, medical diagnostics, and much more!
This was a very interesting defense to be a part of, and you can check out and read more about Petter's thesis here!
Our very own João Pedro Alves Gama attended the National Consortium for Microbial Genomics Meeting at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo. The consortium was established back in 2016 to share knowledge and stimulate the advancement of sequencing in clinical microbiology as part of a One Health perspective here in Norway.
At the consortium, João gave a talk and presentation entitled "Bacterial barriers to plasmid acquisition".
November 4th, 5th:
Several of our researchers from the MicroPop flew down to Bergen to participate to the 3rd Annual Meeting of The National Graduate School in Infection Biology and Antimicrobials (IBA), giving us a great opportunity to share a lot of projects we have been working on and some of our results.
Nicole L. Podnecky co-chaired the session about antibiotic resistance. In that session, Jónína Sæunn Guðmunsdóttir had the oral presentation titled "The cytotoxic drug methotrexate drives evolution of antibiotic resistance" while Christopher Fröhlich presented "Sub-Mic concentrations of ceftazidime drive evolution of the OXA-48 carbapenemase".
On September 27th, professor Pål Jarle Johnsen attended and served as an opponent in the PhD defense of Dr. Fredrika Rajer at Uppsala University in Sweden. A member of Linus Sandegren's research group, Dr. Rajer's PhD was titled "Multi-Resistance Plasmids: Fitness Costs, Dynamics and Evolution", covering a topic that we at the MicroPop group are all too familiar with!
September 4th, 5th, 6th:
At the beginning of September, Researcher Klaus Harms traveled to Frankfurt, Germany where he joined the 12th International Symposium on the Biology of Acinetobacter. The symposium was a great place to meet and connect with other researchers in the field, and at the meeting, Klaus had the opportunity to present his latest research on how DNA single-strands cause microindel mutations.
On Augustt 22nd, professor Pål Jarle Johnsen attended and served as an opponent in the PhD defense of Dr. Leonie Jahn, a PhD student in Morten Sommer’s group at the Technical University of Denmark-DTU.
Researcher Julia Maria Kloos traveled to Zürich, Switzerland where she participated to the 5th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health. On top of meeting and connecting with other scientists in the field, she had the opportunity to present some of her work in a poster entitled "Evolution towards reduced burden of clinical antibiotic resistance plasmids".
Researcher João Pedro Alves Gama traveled to Manchester, UK where he participated at the conference for the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. At the conference, João presented some of his work with the poster titled "E. coli ST73: not good plasmid hosts".
In addition to attending the conference, João also had the pleasure of giving at talk at the Univeristy of Exeter, Penryn Campus while still in the UK. In his talk, entitled "Why E. coli ST73 are not good plasmid hosts", João further eleborated on his most recent work and networked with more researchers in the microbiology field.
MicroPop researchers Klaus Harms and João Pedro Alves Gama participated at BAGECO15, the 15th Symposium on Bacterial Genetics and Ecology, in Lisbon, Portugal, where they had the pleasure of presenting posters of their latest work. Joāo presented "Improved bacterial hospitality to plasmids", and Klaus presented "Horizontal spread of transposons - transposition during natural transformation".
In addition, João gave also a talk at the symposium entitled "Bacterial warfare - the arsenal goes viral", highlighting and diving into some of the potential avenues and concerns for biological weaponry.
Additionally, both Klaus and Joāo were invited to speak and give a talk at the Center for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes at the University of Lisbon.
João Pedro Alves Gama Foto: UiT
This year, we're excited to announce (and host!) the first meeting organized by the iResist Consortium, taking place on the beautifull islands of Sommarøy, just outside Tromsø. At the meeting, scientists, lecturers, and researchers from all over Norway and mainland Europe gathered to network and share their experiences and knowledge on AMR in order to work together on new projects and solutions to the growing threat that it poses to modern medicine and healthcare.
From the left: Prof. Kaare M Nielsen (OsloMet), Dr. Czaba Pal, (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Szeged), Dr. Álvaro San Millan (University Hospital Ramón y Cajal, Madrid), Dr. Nina van Sorge (UMC Utrecht), Prof. Fredrik Almqvist, Umeå University, Prof. Mona Johannessen (UiT), Dr. Klaus Harms (UiT), Dr. Alan McNally (University of Birmingham), Prof. Gunnar S. Simonsen (UNN-UiT), Dr. Ursula Theuretzbacher (CEFAIA, Vienna), Prof. Ole Andreas Økstad (UiO), Dr. Elizabeth G.Aarag Fredheim (UiT), Prof. Kristin Hegstad (UiT), Ørjan Samuelsen (UNN-UiT), Dr. Madelaine Norström (Norwegian Veterinary Institute), Prof. Dr. Jan Maarten van Dijl (University of Groningen), MD PhD. Iren Høyland Löhr (SUS), Dr. Med. Vet. Marianne Sunde (Norwegian Veterinary Institute), Prof. Dzung B. Diep (NMBU), Prof. Pål J. Johnsen (UiT), Prof. Arnfinn Sundsfjord (UNN-UiT).
PhD student Christopher Fröhlich and medical research student Anna Sollied Møller had the pleasure of attending the ECCMID conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands this year! In addition, both of them were selected to present posters on some of their latest work; Christopher presented "Sub-inhibitory concentrations of ceftazidime drive evolution of the OXA-48 carbapenemase", and Anna presented "Evolutionary stability of collateral effects in ciprofloxacin resistant clinical Escherichia coli strains".
Great work guys, we hope you enjoyed the conference and beautiful Amsterdam!
A massive joint grant was assigned from Bergen's Research Foundation targeting AMR-Research, with the aim of combating the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance and developing strategies to effectively treat infections for years and generations to come. This project involves many researchers based in Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, and Tromsø, including Jukka Corander (UiO), and Ørjan Samuelse, with additional collaborators in the US and UK.
For more information on the project and its implications on Norwegian and global public health, click here!
Prof. Jukka Corander (UiO), Prof. Ørjan Samuelsen (UNN, UiT) and Prof. Pål J. Johnsen (UiT)
Prof. Pål J. Johnsen and Prof. Ørjan Samuelsen were invited to give keynote lectures at a joint course in Gothenburg, Sweden, held by Norway's National Graduate School in Infection Biology and Antimicrobials (IBA) and the Swedish National Doctoral Programme in Infections and Antibiotics (NDPIA).
Today marks quite the occasion, as it's the one and only Klaus Harm's 50th birthday today! Of course it calls for a celebration, so happy birthday Klaus from all of us at MicroPop and IFA!
October 29th, 30th:
On the 29th and 30th of October, MicroPop group members attended and participated in the annual meeting with IBA – Norway's National Graduate School in Infection Biology and Antimicrobials. During the meeting, in addition to networking with fellow researchers from all across the country, both Pål and João gave presentations discussing some of their latest work and implications.
Chris Marx from University of Idaho in the United States paid us a visit here at the MicroPop group, and it was an absolute pleasure meet him! On top of sharing our work, bouncing ideas off of one another, and discussing potential future collaborations, Chris gave an excellent talk at the faculty and shed some light about what he and his colleagues in the US are doing within the field of AMR.
You can read more about Chris, including his background and some of the work he has done, here!
The MicroPop group has been featured in the Norwegian national media! Pål and some of his lab members appeared on NRK to showcase some of the promising results that were published last month in Nature Communications! The paper can once again be accessed here, and feel free to head over and watch the segment on NRK, or read about it on the NRK website (note, both are all in Norwegian).
A paper was published in Nature Communications, with the first author being our very own Nicole Podnecky! The paper, titled "Conserved collateral antibiotic susceptibility networks in diverse clinical strains of Escherichia coli.", explores the potential treatment implications of collateral antibiotic susceptibility. This is the process by which increased resistance to one drug comes at the cost of increased susceptibility to another drug. In other words, if the bacteria has grown resistant to drug A at the expense of its resistance to drug B, then treating it with drug B instead of drug A could be much more effective in some cases.
Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in treating infections, so this strategy could potentially be a gamechanger, but more research is needed into the matter of course. View the full paper here! Podnecky NL, Fredheim EG, Kloos J, Sørum V, Primicerio R, Roberts AP, Rozen DE, Samuelsen Ø, Johnsen PJ.
PhD student Julia Kloos and postdoc João Gama went to the Plasmid Biology conference in Seattle in the beginning of August. At the confernece, João was selected to give an oral presentation with the title: "Plasmid interactions: shaping conjugative transfer dynamics", which took place on August 7th. Julia also had the chance to present her work on August 6th with the poster "Klebsiella pneumoniae MDR-encoding plasmids in clinical isolates of uropathogenic Escherichia coli: plasmid-host co-evolution and its effect on fitness cost of plasmid-mediated resistance". Great work to the both of you!
May 31st-June 2nd:
Pål was invited to give a talk at the Wenner-Gren Symposium in Stockholm, Sweden. His talk, titled "Antibiotic resistance: Evolutionary concepts versus clinical realities" dove into some of the discrepencies (and similarities) between what we are seeing in clinical cases of antibiotic resistant infections vs what we would hypothesize to observe based on evolutionary biology.
As part of our PhD course "Molecular and Clinical Aspects of Infection, Inflammation, and Immunity" (MBI-8006), several lecturers and researchers visited us in Tromsø to deliver talks and presentations. Among the visitors were Ellie Harrisson, Guido Werner, Jukka Corander, John Lees, and Gerry Tonkin-Hill.
Thanks so much to all of you for being an integral part of the course!
The MicroPop group traveled to Madrid to attend the 28th ECCMID conference! In addition, Christopher Fröhlich, a PhD student closely associated with MicroPop, was selected to give an oral presentation.
Congratulations Chris and we hope all of you enjoyed Madrid and the conference!
In the beginning of April, Pål met with his consortium partners for the biofilm project, funded by the Olav Thon Foundation, in Leiden, the Netherlands to discuss the future of the project. Group members Pål and Nicole also met with the partners in the JPI-AMR consortium, also in Leiden.
Prof. Pål J. Johnsen traveled down to Olso to attend a ceremony where he received the highly prestigious research award from Olav Thon himself and his research foundation in Oslo. The foundation, set up by Olav Thon, is one of the largest in Norway, and every year NOK 50 million can be awarded and funded towards research in mathematics, natural sciences, and medicine.
Prof. Pål J. Johnsen has become a partner in the new research project "Development of Antibiotic Resistance in Bacterial Biofilms", which was awarded NOK 10 million from the Olav Thon Foundation!
The grant aims to incentivise increased Nordic collaboration within medical research, specifically focused on combating the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. The project is being led by Dan I. Andersson at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, and partnered by Prof. Hanne Ingmer of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Nicole Podnecky's paper "Conserved collateral susceptibility networks in diverse clinical strains of Escherichia coli." was published online at Biorxiv this month! In the paper, collateral sensitivity is investigated in various strains of E. coli, as this phenomenon can have some major implications for treating antibiotic-resistant infections in the near future, especially as they get more and more difficult to treat using conventional treatment options.
NOK 2 million was granted to the iResist consortium - a network of eight partners headed by our very own Prof Pål J. Johnsen. This grant will support the network in increased grant application activity and more competitive applications for Norwegian health researchers directed towards EU funds, such as Horizon 2020, all within research on infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance in a one health perspective.
Klaus Harms was awarded a grant from the Norwegian Research Council worth NOK 7.5 million for his project "Molecular and Evolutionary Characterization of Short-Patch Double Illegitimate Recombination, A Recently Discovered Mutation Mechanism". Congratulations Klaus and we look forward to the great work that is to come from your research!
The PhD course in Antimicrobial Resistance was held in Tromsø this fall semester. Profs Pål J. Johnsen and Ørjan Samuelsen gave several lectures throughout the course, as well as our collaborative partner from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, Prof. Daniel Rozen. The group members were well represented among the attendees and overall, the course was a great success!
Not everything is about science you know! To take a little break and get out a bit, the group had an outing with beer tasting at the local brewery Bryggeri 13, followed by a guided city walk and dinner at one of the great restaurants here in Tromsø. It's always good to go out and have a good time every now and then!
But back to the science, in relation to the National Research Days, our lab members Elizabeth, Julia and Vidar joined in on the Infection Biology Research Group's activities on the research day for kids. The purpose of the program was to get kids excited about science, and hopefully plant the seeds for some exceptional researchers of future generations! And given that the MicroPop team won an award for the best activity, we think it's safe to say that they succeeded!
Prof. Pål J. Johnsen won the Faculty of Health Sciences' Research Prize for 2017. His efforts in running a well-functioning and successful research group and establishing locally, nationally and internationally rooted research networks, as well as recruiting young, successful group leaders to the department, were highlighted factors when he was awarded the prize.
To finish the month, Professors Pål J. Johnsen and Ørjan Samuelsen starred in a popular scientific short video about antimicriobial resistance (AMR). When you get a minute, head on over and watch it here! You'll be glad that you did! :)
The MicroPop group traveled to Vienna, Austria to attend and participate in the 27th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID). At the conference, we had the opportunity to meet and network with researchers and groups from all over the world, and we also had the pleasure of presenting some of our work in the poster "Factors affecting the sign, magnitude, and generality of collateral susceptibility networks in clinical Escherichia coli strains".
Thanks so much ECCMID for having us!
A new paper has been published from the MicroPop group in BMC Microbiology titled Costs and benefits of natural transformation in Acinetobacter baylyi, with Nils Hütler as the first author. The paper explores the two primary methods of bacterial evolution, DNA uptake and natural transformation, and tries to determine which plays a more significant role in the overall evolutionary trajectory of bacteria, as well as how the two mechanisms interact with one another.
DNA uptake refers to when a bacteria simply takes in genomes and genetic material from its environment, in which case the material occassionally 'fuses' into the bacteria's genome and becomes a 'part of it' in a way. Natural transformation refers to evolution through standard means, like mistakes and mutations that occur during DNA replication, which could confer either an advantageous or disadvantageous trait. Nils Hülter; Vidar Sørum; Kristina Borch-Pedersen; Mikkel Meyn Liljegren; Ane Live Gunnes Utnes; Raul Primicerio; Klaus Harms; Pål Jarle Johnsen
ECCMID, the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, continues to be one of the largest, most comprehensive and most influential congresses in the infection field, and our very own Professor Pål J. Johnsen was invited as a chair at this year's conference!
The 27th ECCMID is to be held 22 - 25 April 2017 in Vienna, Austria, with Pål, together with Teresa Coque of Madrid, Spain, chairing a symposium on the 23rd entitled 'Plasmid Ecology and Persistence'.
Klaus Harms and former group members Asbjørn Lunnan, Nils Hülter and Kaare M. Nielsen have published a paper in PNAS (the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)! The paper, titled Substitutions of short heterologous DNA segments of intragenomic or extragenomic origins produce clustered genomic polymorphisms is the result of collaborations between us in Tromsø and researchers from Boston and Copenhagen.
In the paper, a mutational mechanism that can lead to genomic polymorphisms (unique genes present in a population) is studied, in which single-stranded DNA molecules invade double-stranded DNA and replace some sequences. This single-stranded DNA can come from the cell itself, or even be taken up from the external environment, opening up new possibilities as far as how cells can mutate. evolve over time. Furthermore, current work in the field has also that these types of mutations are widespread in all living cells, and they may play a significant role in tumor development, so more studies are absolutely needed on these mutations and the effects that can have!
The MicroPop group at UiT has been awarded 2 Work Packages as part of a JPI-EC-AMR grant, with both Pål Johnsen and Pia Abel zur Wiesch leading the packages! Pål will act as the MicroPop/IFA coordinator and Work Package leader, whereas PIA will be the Computational Pharmacology/IFA Work Package leader.
To learn more about the grants, head on over to the Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance (JPIAMR) website and the Norwegian Research Council website. Big things are going to be coming out of this, so stay tuned for future work and publications!
In June, our own Nicole Podnecky traveled back to the United States to Boston where she attended the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) meeting presented a poster on some of her work.
The MicroPop group had the pleasure of attending the 26th annual European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Amsterdam. At the conference, Nicole Podnecky, Elizabeth A. Fredheim, Julia Kloos, Maria C. Di Luca, and Vidar Sørum had the opportunity to present some of their work with a total of three posters from the group.
Great work everyone, and hopefully you all enjoyed the conference and beautiful Amsterdam!
The MicroPop group has a handful of newly published papers that we're excited to announce and share with you! Below, you'll find the links to the publications and a brief summary of each of them:
- No effect of natural transformation on the evolution of resistance to bacteriophages in the Acinetobacter baylyi model system. One of the most common mechanisms of bacterial evolution is natural transformation, the process by which baceria take up genetic material from their surroundings and incorporate it into their DNA. The process increases genetic variation, and it is believed that it could be beneficial in the natural selection process. In the study, this hypothesis was tested by evolving transformable and recombinogenic species of Acinetobacter baylyi with a mixture of lytic phages. McLeman A, Sierocinski P, Hesse E, Buckling A, Perron G, Hülter N, Johnsen PJ, Vos M. Sci Rep. 2016 Nov 21;6:37144. doi: 10.1038/srep37144.
- Steady at the wheel: conservative sex and the benefits of natural transformation. Bacteria need some loving too, you know! It's a known fact that many species of bacteria reproduce sexually, in addition to asexually, but the excat reasoning behind this has remained somewhat of a mystery. In this review, we attempt to deduce some of the advantages to each method of reproduction, mainly focusing on genetic transformation, by compiling and analyzing various experimental, theoretical, and bioinformatical studies. Ambur OH., Engelstädter J., Johnsen PJ., Miller EL., Rozen DE. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2016 Oct 19;371(1706). pii: 20150528.
- Low biological cost of carbapenemase producing plasmids following transfer from Klebsiella pneumonia to Escherichia coli. Bacterial enzymes known as carbapenemases exhibit broad-spectrum activity towards many of our β-lactam antibiotics, often resulting in treament failures. Plasmids are genetic elements that can carry genes encoding for these resistance enzymes, and they can easily be taken up by bacteria through horizontal gene transfer. However acquiring these new traits often comes with a cost, and not all populations will be able to maintain these traits with stability. This study aims to better understand the dynamics between different species and plasmids, and how these interactions can affect the expression of resistance traits. Di Luca MC., Sørum V., Starikova I., Klos J., Hülter N., Naseer U., Johnsen PJ., Samuelsen Ø. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2016 Sep 2. pii: dkw350
- Distribution of class-1 integrons in a highly impacted catchment. Pollution into waterways is problematic for a number of obvious reasons, but, some pollutants can also drive the selection and the enrichment of bacteria with certain genes and traits. In this study, we explore the potential use of genetic elements known as integrons as a bioindicator in freshwater environments. Based on the results obtained, class 1 integrons (explained further in the article) could actually be used as a biomonitoring system in freshwater ecosystems to measure certain types of pollution. Borruso L, Harms K, Johnsen PJ, Nielsen KM, Brusetti L Sci Total Environ. 2016 Oct 1;566-567:1588-94. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.06.054
- The evolutionary dynamics of integrons in changing environments This study aimed to better understand some of the evolutionary dynamics of integrons, genetic elements common in bacteria cells that appear to mean a driving force in the evolution of bacterial populations. Even though we know they play a significant role in these processes, the exact mechanisms of action are poorly understood, adding to the challenges of predicting things like antimicrobial resistance. In the study, we present a mathematical model for the evolution of integrons in a bacterial population with varying antibiotic exposures, with the model leading to predictable outcomes that highlight the need for more experimental studies on integron populaition biology. Engelstädter J., Harms K., Johnsen PJ. ISME J, 2016, Jun;10(6):1296-307
The MicroPop group has a brand new paper accepted in the ISME Journal (the International Society for Microbial Ecology), with collaborator Jan Engelstädter from the University of Queensland! In this paper, we theoretically explore both the evolution and the maintenance of integrons – the fascinating gene capture and re-shuffling devices found in many bacteria.
The ISME Journal is quite a high impact publication, so having a paper accepted and published is amazing new for the group. Well done everyone!
Our very own Pia Schulz Zur Wiesch was awarded Nordic Cluster of Molecular Medicine (NCMM) Young Investigator – Congratulations Pia and keep up the amazing work you're doing!