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Tufts University School of Medicine

Wai-Leung Ng

Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology & Microbiology
Department: Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Programs: Biomedical Sciences, Molecular Microbiology
Laboratory: Arnold 511

Wai-Leung Ng

Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology & Microbiology
Department: Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Programs: Biomedical Sciences, Molecular Microbiology
Laboratory: Arnold 511

Phone 617-636-0881
Lab phone: 617-636-6996
Office: Arnold 511C
Campus: Boston

Links

Biography

Group behaviors that are critical for survival in harsh environment, such as biofilm formation, virulence factor production, and genetic exchange, are seemingly futile if performed by a single bacterium acting alone. To solve this problem, bacteria depend on a cell-to-cell communication process called Quorum Sensing (QS). Through production and detection of extracellular chemicals called autoinducers, bacteria use QS to monitor cell population density and complexity, and synchronize the gene expression of the group to act in unison. Our lab uses a multi-disciplinary approach to understand how pathogenic Vibrio species communicate with each other. Through these studies, our goal is to reveal the molecular mechanisms underpinning QS, and to understand how QS controls Vibrio virulence and physiology. In turn, we hope to understand how group behaviors evolve. We will also use these findings to develop novel therapeutics to combat infectious diseases by manipulating cell-to-cell communications.

Education

  • BSc, Biology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • MPhil, Biology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • PhD, Microbiology, Indiana University, Bloomington
  • Postdoctoral Training, Princeton University

Research synopsis

One of the most fundamental questions in microbiology is to understand how bacteria sense, respond, and adapt to different environments. The bacterium that causes the diarrheal disease cholera, Vibrio cholerae, is a highly adaptive pathogen. It forms biofilm to survive in the aquatic environment, produces virulence factors to colonize the human small intestine, develop natural competence to take up exogenous DNA, and employs Type VI secretion to compete with other bacterial species. Our lab uses a multidisciplinary approach to study the signal transduction pathways that control these essential processes during the life cycle of this pathogen. We hope to harness our findings to develop novel therapeutics to combat this devastating disease.

Publications

Hawver LA, Giulietti JM, Baleja JD, Ng WL. 2016. Quorum sensing coordinates cooperative expression of pyruvate metabolism genes to maintain a sustainable environment for population stability. MBio 7: pii: e01863-016.

Hawver LA, Jung SA, Ng WL. 2016. Specificity and complexity in bacterial quorum-sensing systems. FEMS Microbiol Rev. Epub ahead of print.

Jung SA, Hawver LA, Ng WL. 2015. Parallel quorum sensing signaling pathways in Vibrio cholerae. Curr Genet. 62: 255-260.

Jung SA, Chapman CA, Ng WL 2015. Quadruple quorum-sensing inputs control Vibrio cholerae virulence and maintain system robustness. PLoS Pathog. 11: e1004837.

Perez LJ, Ng WL, Marano P, Brook K, Bassler BL, Semmelhack MF. 2012. The role of the CAI-1 fatty acid tail in the Vibrio cholerae quorum sensing response. J Med Chem. Epub 55: 9669-9681.

Ng WL, Perez L, Cong J, Semmelhack MF, Bassler BL. 2012. Broad spectrum pro-quorum-sensing molecules as inhibitors of virulence in vibrios. PLoS Pathog. 8: e1002767