Dr. Roberto Grau
Our team is dedicated to the molecular research of the sporulation paradigm in two bacteria: Bacillus subtilis (a non-pathogenic bacterium of basic and industrial interest as probiotic and/or anti-infective agent) and Clostridium perfringens, the etiological agent, in humans and animals, of severe gastro-intestinal diseases and also the deadly gas gangrene. The research with B. subtilis tries to contribute to the resolution of basic and fundamental questions in Biology: How a cell takes the decision to differentiate? In particular, we are interested in the problem on how it works the genetic network of a bacterium to decide to form a biofilm or a sporulating community (fruiting body). With C. perfringens, we study (i) the nature of the signals that regulate the commitment to make spores, a process that is accompanied by the production of the enterotoxin CPE. This toxin is responsible for the severe production of gastro-intestinal illness in animals and humans. (ii) The regulation of the social motility on surfaces (i.e. dissemination on tissues during progression of gas gangrene); (iii) the regulation of toxin production which is a key virulence factor during the development of different clostridia human diseases (i.e. botulism, tetanus, gas gangrene, antibiotic associated diarrhea). More recently, we started different projects of biotechnological interest with B. subtilis as a model. In particular, this and other Bacillus are improved as non-GMO agents for the biocontrol of phytopathogenic fungi and insects.