January 16, 2019
- One of 16 awards from a pool of 179 eligible applicants
- Total award of $270,000 over two years
- The project is led by UCSD’s Justin Meyer and Katherine Petrie, with co-PIs Britt Koskella from UC Berkeley and Jordan Moberg Parker from the MIMG Department at UCLA.
Research Project Overview:
This project, “Exploring a Mechanism For Viral Host Range Evolution,” will test a novel hypothesis for the genetic and physical changes that allow viruses to expand their host range. Researchers at UCSD found that bacteriophage lambda evolved a broader host range through destabilizing mutations in the host-recognition protein that cause bistability in the protein folding process. The bistability causes multiple particles to form, some adept at infecting the original host, and others able to exploit a new host. This discovery provides a novel mechanism for host-range evolution and predicts a trade-off between host-range breadth and stability that could help explain why viruses vary widely in their host-range.
Co-I Moberg-Parker runs a course-based undergraduate research program for students at UCLA to isolate, whole-genome sequence, and characterize natural phages from human skin microbiomes. Moberg-Parker’s team will design a new curricular module in collaboration with UCSD for quantifying viral stability and host range, and her approximately 60 students per year will use this data to further test this mechanism for host range evolution. Authentic Course-Based Research Experiences (CUREs) like these have been demonstrated to improve students’ ability to think like scientists and promote inclusivity and diversity in sciences by expanding access to research. This phage bistability research module will further enhance learning and inclusivity for UC students by providing an experience with hypothesis driven research, while also expanding the available data to test a novel hypothesis.
For the official press release, click here.
For MRPI program information, click here.