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Synthetic biology MRes
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Oral Microbiology

Analysing the oral metagenome

Plaque viewed with a light microscope

The importance of the human microbiome (the bacterial communities that colonise the human body) is emerging. The bacterial cells of these communities outnumber human cells tenfold, yet in the main do not cause inflammation or disease. The mouth alone is thought to contain at least 800 bacterial species with recent studies suggesting numbers in the thousands.
Understanding the interactions between commensal bacteria and their host is fundamental to understanding disease; minor changes in the oral community can lead to two of the most common bacterial diseases: dental caries and periodontal disease. Around 50% of oral bacteria cannot be cultured. Therefore, in order to understand the interactions within these communities we have chosen to employ a metagenomic approach: that is, the culture-independent, molecular analysis of the total genomes of oral bacterial communities.
Specifically, we are constructing shot-gun phage display libraries from metagenomic DNA and screening for protein interactions with host cell proteins as well as with whole bacterial cells. Our studies concern the metagenomes of the tongue dorsum, the soft mucosal surfaces of the mouth and dental plaque and have been carried out in collaboration with other members of the Research Department of Structural and Molecular Biology, the UCL Eastman Dental Institute, Kings College London Dental Institute and Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre.


Stephanie Hunter


Brian Henderson, Peter Mullany, Philip Warburton, Elaine Allen, David Spratt and Mike Wilson (UCL Eastman Dental Insitute)
Christine Orengo and Corin Yeats (UCL Research Department of Structural and Molecular Biology)
William Wade and Veronica Booth (Kings College London Dental Institute)
Julian Parkhill and Alan Walker (Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute)