Samantha Firth

0191 334 1200

Department of Biosciences Durham Univeristy

Supervisors: Dr Karrera Djoko and Dr Kevin Waldron

I graduated from Newcastle University with a First Class BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry and a Bioscience MRes. It was during my undergraduate degree where I discovered my interest in exploiting copper as a novel antimicrobial for multidrug resistant bacteria. I had a series of lectures about nutritional immunity which lead me to choose my undergraduate project in Dr Kevin Waldron’s lab, studying copper toxicity in MRSA. I expanded my research in the copper field in my MRes by characterising a copper storage protein in pathogenic Salmonella. Between my MRes and the start of my PhD I worked in a microbiology food testing lab for a year.

Project Title: Bacterial copper handling: opportunities for antimicrobial development

Neisseria gonorrhoeae is a Gram negative bacterium that infects the genitourinary tract causing the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea.The periplasm of N. gonorrhoeae has a high apparent demand for copper (Cu), with multiple copper dependent enzymes localised to this space. How this organism imports copper is unknown. Nevertheless, excess Cu is toxic and therefore its levels must be tightly regulated. The Cu-containing nitrite reductase, AniA, a central enzyme in Neisseria denitrification localised to the outer membrane. AniA is required for growth in a microaerobic environment, similar to what N. gonorrhoeae encounters in the human host. Cu trafficking pathways in the periplasm, and therefore to AniA, remains poorly understood. My project will focus on characterising the Cu trafficking pathway in N. gonorrhoeae, to identify how N. gonorrhoeae may utilise Cu as a nutrient and at the same time avoid toxicity.

Other activities

 I presented a poster at the Cell Biology of Metals research Conference and seminar. I also volunteered at the soapbox science event in Newcastle.

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