Due to growing antimicrobial resistance of Staphylococcus species, particularly S. epidermidis and S. aureus, it has become increasingly important to understand the driving forces of survival in pathogenic staphylococcal strains. Mobile genetic elements (MGEs) are key players in microbial evolution, as they allow for rapid adaptation to selective pressures and spread of advantageous traits. MGEs also influence staphylococcal evolution by promoting the development of defenses within their hosts against their spread. However, the diversity of MGEs in staphylococci and the extent to which they encode anti-MGE defenses is unknown. My research has identified a putative integrative conjugative element (ICE) in S. epidermidis ATCC12228, and we will attempt to identify and characterize novel and diverse anti-phage defenses encoded within it. Work in this project will employ genetic, microbiological, and biochemical approaches to test our central hypothesis that this element is a member of a new family of ICEs which constitutes a hotspot for diverse anti-phage defenses.
Advisor: Asma Hatoum