Linda McCarter

Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Carver College of Medicine
The University of Iowa
BA, Chemistry, University of Hawaii
PhD, Microbiology, University of California, Davis
3-430 Bowen Science Building

In order to survive in changing environments, bacteria possess enormous adaptive capabilities that allow them to modulate their behavior and reprogram gene expression in response to environmental cues. One important survival strategy for bacteria is adhesion to and colonization of surfaces. My laboratory is focused on understanding how bacteria adapt to life on surfaces and in biofilms. We ask the following kinds of questions. How do bacteria recognize surfaces? What genes are turned on by growth on a surface? How is behavior coordinated? How do bacteria interact to develop surface-attached communities or biofilms? How do bacteria process information and make decisions-for example, make the decision to swim, swarm or stick? And, what is the role of the social life of bacteria (specifically, cell-cell communication) in all of these processes? We also are probing the significance of surface sensing with respect to virulence of the organism. We study Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a worldwide pathogen and a model organism for surface sensing-as it undergoes the remarkable differentiation known as swarming when transitioning from liquid to surfaces. Our ultimate goal is to trace the regulatory circuitry that enable bacteria to establish growth, communicate and coordinate behavior, and develop structured communities on surfaces. How cells respond to their environment and each other—or to other species—while growing as communities on surfaces may be key to understanding pathogenesis of many organisms.