Middlebury

 

Grace Spatafora

Heinz-Given Professor of the Pre-medical Sciences and Chair, Department of Biology

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Phone: work802.443.5431
Office Hours: Summer: By appointment only.
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Streptococcus mutans is the principal causative agent of dental caries in humans. A major research objective in the Spatafora laboratory centers on identifying genes belonging to the S. mutans SloR metalloregulome and defining their potential involvement in the caries-forming process.

Homologs of the SloR metalloregulator in other pathogenic bacteria are known to modulate gene expression upon binding DNA in the presence of a metal ion co-repressor. We propose that SloR, in response to metal ion availability in the human oral cavity, modulates metal ion transport and virulence gene expression in such as way as to promote S. mutans persistence and pathogenesis in dental plaque. The results of microarray and real-time qRT-PCR experiments revealed SloR as a pleiotropic global regulator in S. mutans. Our work is presently focused on a subset of S. mutans virulence genes that we identified are subject to both manganese and SloR control and that are preceded by a SloR recognition element (SRE) that binds the metalloregulator. One of our research goals is to explore and compare the mechanisms by which SloR regulates S. mutans gene expression and so reveal the complexities of SloR metalloregulation in this important oral pathogen. We also plan to reveal the constituency and structural organization of the SREs that precede SloR-regulated virulence genes in S. mutans, and to investigate the structure of the purified SloR protein so that the details of the SloR:SRE interaction under conditions of physiological relevance to the plaque environment can be elucidated. Taken together, we propose that manganese-dependent SloR binding to specific palindromic SREs facilitates S. mutans virulence gene expression and cariogenesis. This research is important not only because it will advance our understanding of S. mutans gene regulation but also because it will reveal a basis for designing novel therapeutic agents that can target SloR-modulated virulence gene expression and so alleviate the S. mutans-induced cariogenic process.

 

Courses

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

BIOL 0145 - Cell Biology and Genetics      

Cell Biology and Genetics
In this introduction to modern cellular, genetic, and molecular biology we will explore life science concepts with an emphasis on their integral nature and evolutionary relationships. Topics covered will include cell membrane structure and function, metabolism, cell motility and division, genome structure and replication, the regulation of gene expression and protein production, genotype to phenotype relationship, and basic principles of inheritance. Major concepts will be illustrated using a broad range of examples from plants, animals, and microorganisms. Current topics in biology will be integrated into the course as they arise. 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. lab

DED SCI

Fall 2013

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BIOL 0280 - Immunology      

Immunology
In this course we will explore the human immune system and how it works to protect the body from infection. Students will be introduced to the cells and molecules of the immune system and how they work together to protect the host from foreign invaders. We will focus on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of innate immunity before exploring the cellular and genetic principles that underlie the adaptive immune response. Finally, we will investigate how innate and adaptive immunity work together to combat infection and how disease can arise from inadequacies in this coordinated host response. Not open to students who have taken BIOL 0340 (BIOL 0145)

SCI WTR

Winter 2012, Winter 2013

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BIOL 0310 - Microbiology      

Microbiology
The microbiological principles emphasized in this class will provide students with a foundation for advanced study in many areas of contemporary biology. The course will integrate basic and applied aspects of microbiology into a study of the prokaryotic microorganisms. General principles of bacterial cell structure, function, and the role of microorganisms in industry, agriculture, biotechnology, and disease will be discussed. An independent laboratory project will stress basic microbiological techniques as applied to the isolation, characterization, and identification of microorganisms from the natural environment. (BIOL 0140 and BIOL 0145 and CHEM 0103) 3 hrs. lect./4 hrs. lab./1 hr. prelab.

SCI

Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013

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BIOL 0314 - Molecular Genetics      

Molecular Genetics
This course will focus on the structure and function of nucleic acids in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Lectures will center on molecular mechanisms of mutation, transposition, and recombination, the regulation of gene expression, and gene control in development, immune diversity and carcinogenesis. Readings from the primary literature will complement the textbook and classroom discussions. The laboratory will provide training in both classic and contemporary molecular-genetic techniques including nucleic acid isolation and purification, cloning, electroporation, nick-translation, Southern/Northern blotting, DNA sequencing, PCR and RT-PCR. (BIOL 0140 and BIOL 0145 or waiver) 3 hrs. lect./4 hrs. lab./1 hr. prelab.

SCI

Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

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BIOL 0330 - Microbial Pathogenesis      

Mechanisms of Microbial Pathogenesis
Many microorganisms have the potential to cause disease. An understanding of the mechanisms that promote bacterial pathogenesis is therefore essential for the development of effective disease prevention and/or treatment strategies. This course will explore the mechanisms by which microbial pathogens adhere to, invade, and persist in the human host. While an emphasis will be placed on microbial mechanisms of disease, the host response to the infectious process will also be discussed. (BIOL 0140 and BIOL 0145) 3 hrs lect/disc.

SCI

Spring 2012

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BIOL 0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study
In this course students complete individual projects involving laboratory and/or field research or extensive library study on a topic chosen by the student and a faculty advisor. Prior to registering for BIOL 0500, a student must have discussed and agreed upon a project topic with a member of the Biology Department faculty. Additional requirements include participation in weekly meetings with disciplinary sub-groups and attending all Biology Department seminars. This course is not open to seniors; seniors should enroll in BIOL 0700, Senior Independent Study. (Approval required) 3 hrs. disc.

Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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BIOL 0700 - Senior Independent Study      

Senior Independent Study
In this course students complete individual projects involving laboratory and/or field research or extensive library study on a topic chosen by the student and a faculty advisor. Prior to registering for BIOL 0700, a student must have discussed and agreed upon a project topic with a member of the Biology Department faculty. Additional requirements include participation in weekly meetings with disciplinary sub-groups and attending all Biology Department seminars. (Approval required; open only to seniors) 3 hrs. disc.

Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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BIOL 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Seniors majoring in Biology who have completed one or more semesters of BIOL 0500 or BIOL 0700 and who plan to complete a thesis should register for BIOL 0701. In this course students will produce a written thesis, deliver a public presentation of the research on which it is based, and present an oral defense of the thesis before a committee of at least three faculty members. Additional requirements include participation in weekly meetings with disciplinary sub-groups and attending all Biology Department seminars. Open to Biology and joint Biology/Environmental Studies majors. (BIOL 0500 or BIOL 0700 or waiver; instructor approval required for all students) 3 hrs. disc

Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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CHEM 0700 - Senior Research      

Senior Research
In this course students complete individual projects involving laboratory research on a topic chosen by the student and a faculty advisor. Prior to registering for CHEM 0700, a student must have discussed and agreed upon a project topic with a faculty member in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. Attendance at all Chemistry and Biochemistry Department seminars is expected. (Approval required; open only to seniors)

Winter 2013, Winter 2014

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FYSE 1107 - Shaping the Future      

Shaping the Future
The release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment has great potential for agriculture and industry, however the consequences posed by the transfer of genetic material from one organism to another are uncertain. Germline gene therapy is proving to be a major molecular-genetic advancement for medical science, yet there is much controversy over whether genetic manipulation of germline constitutes an ethical approach for the treatment of inheritable disease. The use of gene splicing to develop biological weapons is yet another issue that has considerable social, political, and ethical impacts. This seminar will use writing as a tool to explore these and other biotechnological advances and their societal implications. Classroom discussions, debates, and writing exercises will emphasize the ethical considerations brought about by the Human Genome Project, the introduction of DNA fingerprinting into the U.S. judicial system, and the pending arrival of "edible vaccines" on grocery store shelves to name a few.

CW SCI

Fall 2010

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MBBC 0700 - Senior Research      

Senior Thesis
Seniors conducting independent study in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry should register for MBBC 0700 unless they are completing a thesis project in which case they should register for MBBC 0701. (Approval required).

Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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MBBC 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Students conducting independent thesis research in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry must register for MBBC 0701 while completing research projects initiated in BIOL 0500, MBBC 0700, or CHEM 0400. Students will organize and lead regular discussions of their research and research methods, and attend weekly meetings with their designated laboratory group to foster understanding of their special area, and practice the stylistic and technical aspects of scientific writing needed to write their thesis. (CHEM 0400 or BIOL 0500 or MBBC 0700) (Approval required).

Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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Selected Publications

*Indicates a Middlebury College student

Merchant, A.* and G. Spatafora.  2014.  A role for the DtxcR familhy of metalloregulators in gram positive pathogenesis.  Molec. Oral Microbiol. 29:1-10.

Haswell, J.R.*, B.W. Pruitt*, L.P. Cornacchione*, C.L. Coe*, E.G. Smith* and G. Spatafora. 2013.  Characterization of the functioinal domains of the SloR metalloregulatory protein in Streptococcus mutansJ. Bacteriol. 195:126-134

Smith, E.G.* and G. Spatafora. 2012. Gene Regulation in Streptococcus mutans: Complex Control in a Complex Environment. J. Dent. Res. (featured as a Critical     Review in Oral Biology and Medicine) 91(2):133-141.

O’Rourke, K.P.*, J.D. Shaw*, M.W. Pesesky*, B.T. Cook*, S.M. Roberts*, J.P. Bond and G.A. Spatafora. 2010. Genome-wide characterization of the SloR metalloregulome in Streptococcus mutans. J. Bacteriol. 192:1433-43.

Levine, R.B.*, M.S. Constanza-Robinson and G. Spatafora. 2010.  Neochloris oleoabundans grown on anaerobically digested dairy manure for concomitant nutrient removal and biodiesel feedstock production. Biomass and Bioenergy, 35:40-49

Dunning, D.W.*, L.W. McCall*, W.F. Powell*, W. T. Arscott*, E. M. McConocha*, S. D. Goodman, and G. Spatafora. 2008. SloR modulatioin of the Streptococcus mutans acid tolerance response involves the GcrR response regulator as an essential intermediary. Microbiology 154:1132-43.

Rolerson, E*, A. Swick*, L. Newlon*, C. Palmer*, Y. Pan*, B. Keeshan*, and G. Spatafora. 2006. The SloR/Dlg metalloregulator modulates Streptococcus mutans virulence gene expression. J. Bacteriol. 188:5033-5044.