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PneumoCell Report Summary

Project ID: 337399
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Netherlands

Mid-Term Report Summary - PNEUMOCELL (Noise in gene expression as a determinant of virulence of the human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae)

Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) is yearly responsible for more than a million deaths by causing septicemia, meningitis and pneumonia. How the interaction of this bacterium with its human host changes pneumococcus from being benign to causing disease is poorly understood. The main hypothesis of this project is that random fluctuations in gene expression (noise) trigger phenotypic changes in the pneumococcus, which in its turn initiates disease. Within the first half of this ERC project, we have developed novel single cell techniques to examine the origins of stochastic fluctuations, or noise, in pneumococcal gene expression. At the same time, we have mapped the transcriptional changes that occur during pneumococcal infection in both host and bacterium. This showed global rewiring of the transcriptomes of both host and pathogen. Using synthetic and systems biology approaches we are now testing whether heterogeneity in gene expression indeed is important for pneumococcal virulence.

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