Dr Teresa Cortes
Teresa Cortes joined the School in June 2015 funded by a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) to study how translational regulation contributes to biological adaptation in the human pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Prior to the establishment of her research group, Teresa was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Division of Mycobacterial Research at the National Institute for Medical Research. Her research focused on the development of sequence-based transcriptomics in M. tuberculosis within a European consortium aimed at the establishment of a systems biology framework for research on M. tuberculosis.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of human tuberculosis, is a successful pathogen than can persist in an individual host for decades in an asymptomatic state. Despite the fact that adaptive responses of M. tuberculosis have been extensively studied at the transcriptional level, the mechanisms underlying this persistence in the host are still poorly understood. Furthermore, the emergence of drug resistant tuberculosis makes the development of effective new treatments an urgent challenge. Understanding the ability of M. tuberculosis to switch between replicating and non-replicating states during infection and disease is central to this search for improved treatments.
The number of copies of a protein produced by a cell is generally viewed as being determined by the number of mRNA transcripts, but recent findings suggest that ‘specialised ribosomes’ can modify proteome profiles by preferential translation of particular mRNA subsets, particularly in response to stress. I recently demonstrated that M. tuberculosis differs from other bacterial pathogens in expressing a greater number of transcripts that lack a sequence for ribosomal recognition. In Escherichia coli, only a few of these transcripts have been described and they are selectively translated by specialised ribosomes.
My main research interest is to investigate the role of translation regulation in the adaptive response of M. tuberculosis and its contribution to differential susceptibility to drugs that target ribosomal activities. We are investigating the importance of selective translation of particular mRNAs subsets using cutting-edge experimental techniques combined with bioinformatics analyses.