People In The Lab
The Cava lab aims at deciphering new knowledge on one of the most remarkable structures of bacteria - their cell wall – both to provide answers to scientific fundamental questions and to improve our options to combat long-standing and emerging infectious diseases. We have launched an integrative research program to uncover and exploit the unnoticed variability of the bacterial cell wall. This investigation is imperative for a realistic understanding of cell wall biology in nature, in particular its role in environmental adaptation and signalling. Gathered data will be the basis of the first comprehensive bacterial cell wall database and ad hoc software: The MUREINome. Such a database will be highly relevant to properly understand bacterial relations with neighbouring organisms at all levels, and their adaptation to environmental challenges. Moreover, this research might lead to the discovery of new metabolic and regulatory pathways with great potential in the development of new species-specific antimicrobials therapies. Therefore, this project promotes collaborative networks amongst fairly unconnected disciplines in life sciences, both in academia and in the public health field.
The Cava lab uses an arsenal of advanced analytical technologies and cell imaging tools, combined with genetics, biochemistry, bioinformatics and molecular biology to study how bacteria regulate their cell wall to adapt to (and infect) the host in some of the most relevant bacterial models. This is the first time that a project of such magnitude has been actually launched, and therefore my recruitment to UmU has generated immediate opportunities for cross-disciplinary synergies within the campus. In just one year, my laboratory has harnessed the higher resolution and through-put power (HTP) of UPLC-MS in-line technology in collaboration with the Swedish Metabolomic Centre at KBC. Since thousands of microbes will be analyzed and diverse conditions will be tested, we expect to revolutionize the current knowledge on cell wall architecture. Additionally, we teamed up with Profs. Johan Tryggs to develop a dedicated analytical software that evolves our work into quantitative computational modelling. The final identification of cell wall chemical variability will be done by NMR in collaboration with the KBC NMR Core facility (joint UCMR postdoctoral recruitment).
We also collaborate with the Almqvist lab and the Laboratories for Chemical Biology Umeå (LCBU) to investigate the impact of environmental metabolites on the bacterial cell wall by generating an upgraded collection of induced-marine bioactive extracts. This induced-collection will be pioneering amongst international screening cores and will promote many more fruitful scientific interactions within the UmU community.
Dr. Cava scientific credibility is strongly supported by recently awarded prestigious grants Wallenberg Academy Fellows 2012 and MIMS Group Leaders 2013, both highly competitive programs dedicated to promote research excellence by attracting and retaining first class researchers. Remarkably, in 2013, Cava received the top grant given by the Swedish Research Council to a young researcher in Umeå University.
Sara Belen Hernandez
Enteropathogenic bacteria must endure different harsh conditions inside the host such as pH variations, elevated osmolarity, low oxygen levels, nutrient limitation or the presence of bile. I am studying how the structure of the peptidoglycan of some pathogenic bacteria is remodelled during adaptation to these stressful conditions.
My research deals with the application of chemometric techniques on chromatographic and mass spectrometry data sets to identify cell wall properties that are specific of certain classes of bacteria and also those that influence the pathogenic lifestyle.
The Alpha-proteobacteria is a class of bacteria that presents very diverse organisms in terms of metabolism and ecological distribution. The aim of my project in the Cava lab is to determine if in this variable group of Gram-negative bacteria the peptidoglycan structure is conserved or not.
I'm currently working on creating tools for computational analysis of cell wall data and I'm also working on deploying a cell wall data base "The Mureinome" as part of my Masters Project.
Chemical remodelling of cell wall peptidoglycan enables bacteria to adapt to stress conditions like those found during chronic and acute infections and antibiotic treatment. My role in the lab is to generate better understanding of the structural and chemical complexity of the cell wall by using sophisticated analytical techniques like UPLC, UPLC-MS/MS and NMR.
Teresa del Peso
Vibrio cholerae is exposed to constant changes, both in the aquatic environment that inhabits and upon infection of a host. Its ability to form biofilm provides a strategy for its growth and survival, mainly by increasing protection against environmental challenges, antimicrobial substances and predators.
In my work in the Cava lab, I try to understand the molecular mechanisms by which different factors affect the development of Vibrio cholerae biofilm. I focus on (i) environmental factors that play a role on its transition between the host and the environment, which is significant for the infection process and subsequent transmission; and (ii) small molecules that can play a role on inter-species communication with other microorganisms inhabiting the same niche, being this important for its fitness and competition with other microorganisms in their natural environment.
Laura Alvarez Muñoz
My research work in Cava lab is focused in studying why bacteria such as Vibrio cholerae produce and release D-amino acids to the environment. This ability is spread among other members of the Vibrionaceae family and plays a key role in the biology of polimicrobial communities. Moreover, different sets of D-amino acids are produced and we have found they have different effects on other neighbouring bacteria, influencing their biology at multiple levels (directly altering the cell wall structure and composition, affecting their growth, acting as signals in bacterial communication). We aim to decipher the specific role of these small molecules that can promote or interfere with so many biological processes.
Communication is the most fundamental instrument through which every community is built. Chemical interaction by small diffusible molecules is a language that all organisms share. Studying social microbiology, using peptidoglycan as bacterial biosensor of chemical communication, is the primary interest of my research at Cava lab. Thus, my goal is to identify environmental secondary metabolites that influence on the structure, composition and chemistry of bacterial cell wall.
- Andreas Gunnarsson, Anton Langman, Astrid Råberg, Evgeniy Donev y Victoria Branberg. “Design-Build-Test” Master project. Umeå University. 2015.
- Loris Cagnacci. Master. Umeå University. 2015.
- Carlos Terriente. Master. Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia. Spain. 2014.
- Emilie Nordström. Master. Umeå University. 2014.
- Gonzalo López. Master. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid 2012.
- Manon Bruiyant. Master. Montpellier University 2012.
- Francisco Navas. Master. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid 2012.
- Pilar Horcajo. Bachelor final project. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid 2012.