Photo: Fluorescence microscopy of a typical biofilm found in every corner of this planet and for all time.

I presented a poster at a couple conferences in 2017 and I just realized there’s really nothing of it out there publicly available. Maybe an abstract somewhere out there at best. I am a firm believer in communicating science in its entirety to everyone, all the nitty gritty details of data – it’s how we progress and contribute to the knowledge base.

It was at two different organizations’ annual meetings that I attended and presented my poster, the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences’ held in Ottawa and the Canadian Society of Microbiologsts’ held at the gorgeous campus of the University of Waterloo.

This work that I presented on is a major project I’ve been working on for my PhD thesis. My work focuses on bacterial regulation and responses. Mostly this work has focused on the importance of bacterial responses with regard to infections and antibiotic resistance but this is actually important just for understanding the biology of bacteria.

Bacteria seem pretty simple at first glance, and, well, from a perspective of complexity – yeah, they’re pretty simple. But this branch of life has been around for what seems to be roughly within the first 500 million years of Earth’s formation. Natural selection was worked thoroughly on the kingdom of Bacteria and its members of adapted appropriately. Bacteria do keep it simple but in that is the real key to their success – efficiency in the face of their adversity.

We’re only just starting to get an idea of how bacteria are regulating really complex social behaviours and rapid responses to their environment such as antibiotics and immune systems in the case of pathogenic bacteria causing infections.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a prime example of this. It causes some nasty infections and has a lot of tricks to evade clearance and exploit its environment. With all those tricks it has non-coding, small RNAs are a major one. It’s clear that all bacteria use small RNAs in some shape or form. There’s the “central dogma” in biology that’s generally correct but misses the details. The “central dogma” of biology is this – DNA to RNA to protein. Which means that DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) makes up the genome, basically the library of code for what makes an organism, gets transcribed into RNA (ribonucleic acid) that acts as the messenger to go throughout the cell to be read for the making of protein. Proteins being considered the business end or the real machinery that makes up life. Small RNAs are an example of the details missed in the “central dogma” that make it only generally correct. Small RNAs (along with a lot of other kinds and types of RNAs) are the business end too.

This brings us around to bacteria being highly efficient and achieving complexity through fairly simple means. Small RNAs allow bacteria to use a fairly basic mechanism of just transcribing from the genome to have responses to the environment. Small RNAs modulate the expression of protein and maintenance of other RNAs within the cell. This mechanism is involved in every aspect of the cell. So having just a few small RNAs acting in different ratios and acting on various different targets within the cell can create a huge number of unique combinations of interactions within the cell and giving a high amount of subtle and complex responses.

This is what my project for my PhD has been looking at, how a small RNA affects responses and what it interacts with inside a P. aeruginosa cell. So, here’s a link for the .pdf of my poster to help get this science out there.

Taylor, PK et al. 2017. SrbA biofilms.

I managed to publish this too so here’s also a link to even more detail and data on the small RNA SrbA.