David Picton

Department of Biosciences Durham University Stockton Road Durham DH1 3LE


Dr Tim Blower and Professor Jay Hinton

I graduated from Newcastle University with a BSc in Biomedical Science with Medical Microbiology, before undertaking a Master of Philosophy in Microbiology. During my BSc, I undertook placements at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences and the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology, Newcastle.

Functional Studies of Bacteriophage Exclusion (BREX) Systems

Bacteriophages (phages) are viruses that are natural predators of bacteria and outnumber their prey by a factor of 10. Phages are the most ubiquitous set of organisms on the planet and are the major driving force in the evolution of bacterial population. As obligate intracellular parasites, phages are reliant on their bacterial host for propagation, using host machinery to replicate their genome and form progeny. BREX is a novel phage resistance system that confers resistance to a wide array of phages, functioning independently of restriction modification, CRISPR-Cas and abortive infection.

The discovery of other resistance mechanisms has led to vast biotechnological advances in genetic manipulation and there is potential for BREX to be developed in a similar manner. The integration of phage DNA, often resulting in prophages encoding virulence factors, is a major driving force in the evolution of the bacterial genome and therefore the mechanisms in which bacteria prevent this are important in studying bacterial evolution.

As a novel system, my project will look to identify the role of each component of BREX and identify the pathways that ultimately lead to the host’s survival. My project is in collaboration with Professor Jay Hinton at the Institute of Integrative Biology, Liverpool, where I will be performing transcriptomic analysis of BREX in invasive non-typhoidal Salmonella enterica.

I am beginning the 3rd year of my PhD under the supervision of Dr Tim Blower, investigating the mechanisms behind a novel phage resistance system, denoted BREX. My research uses aspects of molecular biology, biochemistry and microbiology to investigate how BREX confers the bacterial host resistance to an array of phages.


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