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Genome Integrity and Mechanisms of Aging

Research within the Genome Integrity & Mechanisms of Aging (GIMA) group aims to enhance our understanding of fundamental, molecular and cellular mechanisms associated with aging and aging-related diseases. The wide range of areas of interest includes genomic instability and DNA repair, mitochondrial dysfunction, cellular stress response, dysregulation of gene expression in cancer, and diabetes. Experimental applications within our interdisciplinary focus group include a broad array of model systems, including transgenic and knockout mice, mammalian cell culture, the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the nematode worm C. elegans and the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster. Collaborations with our focus group are found with the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, the USF Pedriatric Epidemiology Center, USF College of Medicine, USF Departments of Chemistry, Physics, and Electrical Engineering, the Byrd Alzheimer's Institute and the USF Center for Drug Discovery and Innovation, as well as research groups at other universities.

Affiliated faculty:

Cell division is a fundamental biological process that occurs in all kingdoms of life. Regulating cell division is essential for any organism to survive and propagate. Unregulated cell division can result in cell death or lead to diseases such as cancer. Our lab uses a multifaceted approach, which includes cell biology, molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry, structural biology, and computational biology, to study the cell division process in the Gram-positive, rod-shaped, soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis. B. subtilis undergoes two different types of cell division, (1) during nutrient-rich conditions cells divide vegetatively by forming a division septum at the center of the cell, which results in the formation of two equal-sized daughter cells; and (2) upon starvation the cells divide asymmetrically and undergo cell differentiation in order to produce dormant progenies called endospores that can withstand environmental insults such as heat, UV radiation and germinate back into vegetative state upon return of the favorable conditions. 

In our lab, we also study cell division regulation in the Gram-positive, spherical bacterium – an opportunistic pathogen that is commonly associated with nosocomial infections, Staphylococcus aureus, in which the division plane positioning is precisely regulated so that each new division plane is built orthogonal to the previous division plane. Our lab is working towards deciphering the molecular underpinnings of the cell division regulation.

Our enhanced knowledge of bacterial cell division regulation and identification of the key proteins that are unique to bacteria could be harnessed to develop novel antibiotics to add to our arsenal of drugs to counter the threat of multi-drug resistant bacteria.