The Wargo Lab (from left to right): Yuzo Kevorkian, Adam Nock, Dr. Matt Wargo, Graham Willsey, and Jamie Meadows.

The Wargo Lab (from left to right): Yuzo Kevorkian, Adam Nock, Dr. Matt Wargo, Graham Willsey, and Jamie Meadows.

The Wargo Lab strives to discover functions of novel bacterial genes in a fun and intellectually rigorous environment.

Faculty Investigator: Dr. Matt Wargo, Assistant Professor in Microbiology & Molecular Genetics

Dr. Wargo received his B.S. in Biological Sciences from Susquehanna University where his undergraduate research focused on the ecology of freshwater diatoms. He then received an M.S. in Botany from Texas A&M University studying dinoflagellate nuclear proteins. Dr. Wargo received his Ph.D. from Dartmouth College, where he studied the regulation of eukaryotic flagellar motility with Dr. Elizabeth F. Smith. For postdoctoral research, he studied microbial pathogenesis with Dr. Deborah Hogan at Dartmouth Medical School and mammalian lung biology with Dr. Laurie Whittaker (Leclair) in the Pulmonary Division of the Department of Medicine at UVM, before joining the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in 2009.

The Wargo graduate students enthusiastically discuss their research.

The Wargo graduate students enthusiastically discuss their research.

Members:
-Grad Students: Jamie Meadows (MMG), Adam Nock (MMG), Graham Willsey (CMB)
-Undergrad Research: Yuzo Kevorkian (MMG), Dong Yi Chen (NSF REU)

Accepting rotation students: Yes

Major Research Projects: We are interested in Gram negative opportunistic pathogens and the environmental and host-derived cues that they use to transition from their environmental niche to the site of infection. We use forward and reverse genetics coupled with basic microbiology and biochemistry to discover and characterize bacterial detection systems used to sense their environment. For the organism that is the focus of our laboratory, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, these detection systems are often coupled with metabolic pathways to utilize the host-derived signal. Therefore, we also study the links between host detection and metabolism of host-derived compounds and the impact of these processes on infection.

Dr. Wargo and Graham Willsey doing research in the lab.

Dr. Wargo and Graham Willsey doing research in the lab.

We are interested in this topic for two primary reasons:

  1. To establish and propagate an infection, bacteria must properly respond to the environment of the infection site. Because many bacterial signaling systems and transcriptional regulators have no homologs in humans, these systems could be effective therapeutic targets.
  2. More than 60% of genes from well-studied bacteria have no known function. By using a genetic approach, we have been the first to ascribe function to nearly 20 genes in P. aeruginosa. This satisfies a basic sense of curiosity driven discovery, but is also a key contribution to the study of bacteria, because without established functions –omics technology can get you only so far.

Fun Fact: Graduate Student, Adam Nock, has pet hissing cockroaches in the lab.

Fun Fact: Graduate Student, Adam Nock, has pet hissing cockroaches in the lab.

Specifically, the three Wargo Lab graduate students are working on the following projects:
Jamie Meadows – The detection and metabolism of the host-derived molecule carnitine in P. aeruginosa.
Adam Nock – Regulation of choline detection and catabolism in Burkholderia thailandensis and the bioinformatic analysis of GATase-1 family transcriptional regulators.
Graham Willsey – Detection of host-derived sarcosine by P. aeruginosa and genetic analysis of ligand binding by GATase-1 transcriptional regulators.

Exciting News in the Wargo Lab:
Winter 2014 – Graduate the lab’s first PhD student, Annette LaBauve (MMG), who is now a postdoctoral researcher in the Branda Lab at Sandia National Labs

Spring 2014 – One of our recently graduated Undergrad researchers, Kenny John (MMG), successfully defended his Honors College Thesis and received a Distinguished Undergraduate Research Award.

Check out more labs from our Lab Spotlight Series here!

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