Research in the Navarre lab is aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms controlling the expression of genes required for virulence. The lab has a central focus on genomic evolution and lateral (or horizontal) gene transfer (LGT). LGT provides the primary source of genetic Diversity in free-living bacteria. The use of foreign genetic material as a source for novel functionalities enables bacteria to evolve at a rate several orders of magnitude faster than if bacteria had to evolve each new function independently via mechanisms like gene duplication. Most notably, LGT has played a primary role in the evolution of pathogens from non-pathogenic progenitors as well as the rapid spread of antibiotic resistance. A better understanding of LGT and the processes by which it occurs will enhance our understanding of how genomes evolve and how foreign genes integrate into pre-existing regulatory networks.
The lab has also uncovered a novel mechanism of regulation that is critical for bacterial virulence and stress resistance that involves the post-translational modification of a poorly understood ribosome-associated elongation factor, EF-P. Work is underway to understand the proteins under control of this factor and why they are essential for a number of disparate phenotypes.
Navarre Lab website: http://www.utoronto.ca/navlab/NAVLAB/Welcome_-_Navarre_Lab.html.