Henderson Lab Research

Our laboratory uses a multidisciplinary approach to better understand bacterial virulence and devise improved antibacterial therapeutic strategies. Understanding how these bacteria establish themselves and resist host defenses is therefore of particular interest. We make extensive use of mass spectrometry-based approaches to identify secreted products at the host-pathogen interface. Using this approach, a recent metabolomic analysis of colonizing E. coli strains found that production of small molecules involved in iron scavenging – called siderophores - is acquired or optimized among strains causing recurrent urinary tract infections. This microbial iron acquisition strategy may have originated billions of years ago with formation of an oxygen-containing atmosphere and subsequently evolved pathogenic adaptations. These virulence-associated bacterial systems and the host factors with which they are coevolving are the subjects of numerous functional studies in the lab. We use the tools of chemical biology, multivariate “metabolomic” analyses, and microbiology to explore bacterial pathogenesis in biochemical and culture systems in additional to analysis of clinical specimens. Together, these studies are suggesting new therapeutic and diagnostic strategies for recurrent urinary tract infections and other bacterial infectious diseases.