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Role of Metabolic INteractions in the Eco-evolutionary dynamics of bacteRial communities in the VAgina

Project description

Bacterial metabolic interactions in the vagina

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a syndrome characterised by a shift in vaginal microbiota composition from lactic acid-producing bacteria to other bacterial species. BV imposes a significant and hidden burden on a large number of women worldwide. Vaginal secretions in women suffering from BV exhibit high levels of sugar molecules known as sialic acids (SA), which are used by some bacteria as a nutrient source and a way to escape host immunity. The key objective of the EU-funded MINERVA project is to study SA metabolism in BV-associated bacteria from a genetic, clinical and evolutionary perspective, using laboratory models as well as clinical samples. We propose to identify SA metabolic genes and their interactions within bacterial species networks, with the aim of reducing the burden of BV, the associated reproductive complications and the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections.


Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a polymicrobial syndrome that modifies vaginal secretions and increases risks of reproductive complications and most sexually transmissible infections. This syndrome is associated with a shift in vaginal microbiota composition from lactic-acid producing bacteria to specific bacterial communities. Concomitant with such shift, sialidases can be detected in vaginal secretions where they release sialic acids (SA), sugar molecules that some bacteria can use as a nutrient source and to escape host’s immunity. While the presence of sialidases is used as a BV diagnosis method, we still know little about SA metabolism in the species associated with BV, and even less about SA-related interactions in the community.
The proposed project will directly address this question with the ultimate aim of understanding the role of SA metabolism in the transition from health to disease. I will focus my research on the three most prevalent BV-associated bacteria: Gardnerella vaginalis, Prevotella bivia and Atopobium vaginae. First, I will investigate the genomic organization and distribution of the genes involved in SA metabolism. Second, I will link these genotypes to phenotypes by experimentally assessing the expression of those genes in clinical samples from BV-positive and negative women. Third, I will assess the evolutionary stability of SA metabolism genes and bring insight into the respective roles of SA availability and host’s immune system in the evolution of bacterial SA metabolism. Finally, I will create ex-vivo minimal model communities of BV bacteria and examine the ecological interactions between species.
By going beyond a taxonomic description to better understand eco-evolutionary functioning, this project will expand our view of the BV microbiome both at the species level, examining in particular intraspecies diversity in genetic composition and expression, and at the community level through the investigation of SA-related interactions.


Net EU contribution
€ 184 707,84
Rue michel ange 3
75794 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 0,00