JAM Lecture 2016 – Dr Max Dow

The 2016 JAM (Journal of Applied Microbiology) lecture : Diffusible Signal Factor (DSF) family of bacterial cell–cell signals, was delivered at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh by Max Dow of University College Cork, Ireland.

Max first developed an interest in becoming a scientist at primary school and his curiosity was piqued when his parents bought him a Lott’s Chemistry Set. Fast forward a few years and for his PhD thesis at Cambridge he was studying cell wall synthesis and composition in Mucor rouxii.

During the JAM lecture, Max gave an overview of recent advances in understanding of DSF signalling and then described approaches for the control of bacterial virulence through its modulation.

Antimicrobial resistance

Extensive use of antibiotics has fostered the rise of bacteria resistant to multiple drugs, creating an urgent healthcare and public concern. Previous studies showed that quorum sensing signal DSF (diffusible signal factor) not only regulates bacterial antibiotic resistance through intraspecies signalling, but also affects bacterial antibiotic tolerance through interspecies communication.

These findings open up a potential to exploit the possibility of using DSF and its structurally related molecules as adjuvants to influence antibiotic susceptibility of bacterial pathogens.

“These organisms can interact with each other by sensing signals that they themselves do not make, but recognise,” says Dow.

“When organisms are living in polymicrobial environments- one of the environmental signals they’ll ‘appreciate’- is the presence of signal molecules that other species are using to signal each other, within the species. They are picking this information up and using it to change their own behaviour. That may be an Achilles heel, in a sense, because it may be a way we can influence these organisms in a way they don’t want us to do.”

“The more we understand about the molecular biology of pathogens, the greater the chance of developing new methods to control them.”

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