Frias-Lopez and Gibson Receive $3.3 Million NIH Award


Jorge Frias-Lopez
Frias-Lopez’s lab studies the ecology of the human microbiome, focusing on the oral microbial community.

Jorge Frias-Lopez, Ph.D., and Frank C. Gibson III, Ph.D., both faculty members in the UF Department of Oral Biology, recently received a five-year, $3,348,463 grant from the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, for their project, “A Novel Mechanism of Virulence Control in Porphyromonas gingivalis.”

The researchers will conduct a comprehensive analysis of CRISPR-Cas system mutants using molecular, transcriptomics and host interaction modeling approaches. Ultimately they hope the findings will lead to the development of targeted approaches to treat, and possibly prevent periodontitis, by inhibiting specific Cas proteins that are essential for virulence.

A central hurdle limiting progress in periodontal disease research is the paucity of information about microbial signals that correlate with clinical progression at a site from health to disease. In an effort to minimize this absence of inflammation, Frias-Lopez recently reported metatranscriptome findings of the microbial community from human clinical samples during periodontal disease progression, and discovered that Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats-associates proteins, or CRISPR-Cas, in the periodontopathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis were highly up-regulated only at sites that progressed from health to disease. Together, Frias-Lopez and Gibson, will work to understand the role that CRISPR-Cas systems have on virulence determination of important periodontopathogens during infection.

Frank Gibson
Research in Gibson’s lab is focused in areas of host-pathogen interaction.

“Our goal is to increase our understanding of CRISPR gene function, and how these novel genes contribute to bacterial fitness, virulence and the elicited host immune response,” Frais-Lopez said.

Frias-Lopez and Gibson are collaborating on this research with co-investigators Ana Duran-Pinedo, Ph.D., also on faculty in oral biology and Susmita Datta, Ph.D., in the UF College of Public Health & Health Professions Department of Biostatistics.