Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is a central process in microbial adaptation to xenobiotic chemicals, but also in their gain or loss of pathogenicity. The goal of the proposed research is to examine, describe, and control the incidence of extant HGT in microbial bio-film communities found in groundwater and drinking water treatment and distribution systems. The results of this project will answer questions with acute environmental and public health relevance: Can this natural process of rapid microbial adaptation (RaMAda) via HGT be harnessed to steer microbial attenuation of pesticide laden groundwaters? Does HGT need to be considered in a precautionary fashion when examining the fate of pathogenic traits in a drinking water distribution context? This project will employ advanced methods like novel molecular biomarkers to permit single-cell resolved detection of microbial growth and gene transfer dynamics; advanced microscopic tools and image analysis, innovative biomathematical approaches to model microbial a ctivity from individual cell behavior to yield emergent system properties, and environmentally relevant biological and physico-chemical materials and conditions. This study can lead to innovative approaches to detoxify pesticide-laden groundwaters, and may drastically reform fate assessment of pathogenic and bioterrorism micro-organisms by explicit consideration of the survival of their horizontally transmissible genes.
The central core of the proposal responds directly to 6th FP's call for enhancement and structuring of the European Research Area via its HRM activity. It will support 2 early and 2 mid-career scientists who will join a trans-national, leading-edge, and interdisciplinary research programme with European dimension, built around a young EU researcher, returning from the USA where he established an excellent autonomous research program, in direct response to the goal of counteracting brain drain under the MC Excellence Grant action.
Fields of science
Call for proposal
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