Voorhees biology student conducts CRISPR research on drug resistant E. coli strains

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Voorhees biology student conducts CRISPR research on drug resistant E. coli strains

October 22, 2019

Dawn Freeman, a junior biology major at Voorhees College, recently presented research on “Comparative Genomics & Evaluating Analysis of CRISPR Loci in E. coli,” at the Southeastern Medical Scientist Symposium (SEMSS) in Birmingham, Ala. 

SEMSS is an American Physician Scientists Association (APSA) regional conference that brings together physician scientists from academic institutions around the southeastern United States. 

In this study, Freeman analyzed more than 60 strains of sequenced genomes and she constructed a phylogenetic distribution based on their lineage and evolution of these systems. This analysis identified putatively E. coli CRISPR-Cas subtypes, characterized the diverse distribution of known Cas genes and CRISPR spacers. 

Freeman said learning about CRISPR and analyzing the unique contrasts of CRISPR loci and the application concept is fascinating. “I’m excited about the next step of the project, which is to examine how the CRISPR system of E. coli affect its genome and its drug resistance capacity,” Freeman said. 

E. coli is both an antibiotic-refractory pathogen with a large genome and extensive genotypic diversity and an important model system for understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying type I CRISPR and associated protein (CRISPR-Cas)-based bacterial immune systems. However, more information is needed on the phylogenetic distribution and potential role of these CRISPR-Cas systems in molding the E. coli antibiotic resistance elements. 

In long term, results will provide substantial data for subsequent genomic and experimental studies in multiple fields. Understanding why certain genotypes of E. coli are clinically prevalent and adept at horizontally acquiring virulence and antibiotic resistance elements is major clinical and economic importance. 

Dr. Zhabiz Golkar, associate professor of biology, said she was thankful to Carolina Cluster Career Pathways Research and Innovation Program. “One of my goals is to introduce our next generation of biologist to cutting-edge techniques like CRISPR, which is key to modern biology and to enhance our curriculum,” Golkar said. “This research and such training experiences will be of great value to our students in pursuing their future career goal in both industry and academia. Our students will be equipped with extensive research and interpersonal skills which will assure their success in their career pathways.” 

Freeman is currently evaluating CRISPR-Cas Systems in sequenced genome of over 200 multi-drug resistance E. coli strains as Golkar’s research intern. This project is funded by the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (SCICU) Inc. 

For more information, contact the Office of Communications, at 803-780-1191 or at communications@voorhees.edu. 

 Left to right: Dr. Zhabiz Golkar and Dawn Freeman