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Cristina Palma: Understanding how bacteria survive helps preventing diseases

Tampere University
LocationKauppi Campus, Arvo building, auditorium F115 (Arvo Ylpön katu 34, Tampere)
Date8.11.2022 10.00–14.00
Entrance feeFree of charge
Bacterial are a main cause for intestinal infections and, eventually, death. Recently, the World Health Organization reported a list of the bacteria currently posing serious threats to human health. In her doctoral dissertation, M.Sc. Cristina Palma combines methods from single-cell biology, computational biology and synthetic biology to study the repression mechanisms that allow bacteria to respond and adapt to internal and external stresses.

E. coli is one of the bacteria listed by WHO in the “critical” group, because it is developing resistance to multiple antibiotics. This resistance arises from the evolution of new mechanisms to overcome current treatments. Understanding these bacterial survival mechanisms is a promising avenue for preventing diseases.

Adaptation is essential for cells survival, and the ability of gene networks to detect signals is a critical step to achieve it. Genes have evolved a myriad of mechanisms to guide their adaptability. Some involve tens of genes, allowing the guided enhancement or repression of specific genes.

Palma’s doctoral dissertation is a compilation of four studies. She started by studying the dynamics of transcription locking due to transcription factors.

“Next, I studied the dynamics of transcription locking due to positive supercoiling buildup. Then, I studied how promoter spatial arrangements contribute to gene expression regulation. Finally, I studied mechanisms that trigger how cells adapt to cold,” she describes.  

Cristina Palma’s research results will support the engineering of new synthetic genetic circuits and contribute to our understanding of cellular regulation.

“Further, this knowledge should assist in future investigations of new antibiotics, targeting the regulation of supercoiling sensitivity,” she adds.

Cristina Palma is originally from Lisbon, Portugal. In 2017, she came to Tampere University as an Erasmus exchange student. After graduating with a master's degree in biomedical engineering, she started her doctoral studies at the Laboratory of Biosystem Dynamics led by Professor Andre Ribeiro. After completing her doctoral degree, Palma will continue her research as a postdoctoral fellow at Rice University, USA.

The doctoral dissertation of M.Sc. Cristina Palma in the field of Single-Cell Systems Biology titled Repression Mechanisms in Bacterial Transcription will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology of Tampere University at 12 o’clock on Tuesday, 8 November, 2022. The address of the venue is auditorium F115, Arvo building, Arvo Ylpön katu 34, Tampere, Finland. The Opponent will be Professor David Grainger from the University of Birmingham, UK. The Custos will be Professor Andre S. Ribeiro from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology.

The dissertation is available online.

Photo: Vatsala Chauhan