Animals and their resident bacteria produce a variety of proteins and other molecules to sense, manipulate, and defend against each another. The outcome of these exchanges can mean the difference between peaceful coexistence and deadly infection, creating the potential for evolutionary conflict between microbe and host. Our lab seeks to understand how host-microbe interactions evolve on a molecular scale, as well as the consequences for these dynamics on infectious disease and immunity. Evolutionary conflicts between animals and pathogenic bacteria also provide a fantastic system to study the molecular basis of rapid adaptation and natural selection. We blend approaches from evolutionary genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, and microbiology in order to address these questions. Our work has primarily focused on molecular interactions between primate hosts and pathogenic bacteria, with direct implications for human disease. We are also investigating how associations between bacteria and their host organisms have contributed to the evolution of entirely new protein functions. Through these studies we hope to reveal the evolutionary and molecular processes that shape host-microbe interfaces as well as gain insights applicable to the treatment of infectious disease.
Barber MF, Kronenberg Z, Yandell M, Elde NC. 2016. Antimicrobial functions of lactoferrin promote genetic conflicts in ancient primates and modern humans. PLoS Genetics. 12(5): e1006063. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1006063.
Pilla-Moffett D, Barber MF, Taylor GA, Coers J. 2016. Interferon-inducible GTPases in host resistance, inflammation, and disease. J. Mol. Biol. doi:10.1016/j.jmb.2016.04.032.
Barber MF, Elde NC. 2015. Buried treasure: evolutionary perspectives on microbial iron piracy. Trends in Genetics. 31(11):627-636.
Barber MF, Elde NC. 2014. Escape from bacterial iron piracy through rapid evolution of transferrin. Science. 346(6215):1362-1366.
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