Alterations to aquatic environments, via natural or anthropogenic factors can directly or indirectly lead to infectious disease outbreaks. At present, little information is available on the molecular ecology and evolutionary dynamics of infectious agents in the environment. Understanding the environmental factors involved in persistence, growth, transmission, and infectivity of pathogens and the response of organisms to environmental changes will provide information about the emergence or re-emergence of infectious diseases.
Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of the Asiatic cholera, is an excellent model system to study these processes, because V. choleraecauses periodic, seasonal outbreaks in regions where it is an established member of the indigenous aquatic flora. One key factor for environmental survival, transmission and infectivity of V. cholerae is the microbe’s ability to form biofilms – i.e., matrix-enclosed, surface-associated communities. Yildiz’s laboratory is interested in understanding of molecular mechanisms of V. cholerae biofilm formation and its role in V. cholerae biology. To this end they are identifying and characterizing structural components and signal transduction networks controlling biofilm formation. Understanding the mechanisms involved in biofilm formation and maintenance, as well the role of biofilms in overall V. cholerae biology, will pave the way for developing strategies to predict and control cholera epidemics. It may also help in identification of novel drug targets for inhibiting biofilm formation during infection.