Research – University of Copenhagen

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To survive, all living cells have evolved responses that counteract the damaging, potentially lethal, effects of environmental stress. In particular, survival of single-celled organisms, such as bacteria, depends on their capacity to rapidly mount stress response mechanisms whether they are living freely in the environment or as pathogens within host
organisms. We propose that persister cell formation is a common biological phenomenon that allows a minor fraction of cells to survive not only in the presence of lethal concentrations of antibiotics but also under other types of extreme stress. The ubiquitous signaling molecule, ppGpp, controls persister cell formation and is both the “master” regulator of the bacterial stringent response and persister cell formation.

We will characterize bacterial survival strategies, not only at the population level but, importantly, also at the level of single bacterial cells. The study of the molecular mechanisms underlying differentiation of individual bacterial cells represents an entirely new approach to understanding how population heterogeneity facilitate bacterial survival for long periods in the environment and during infection.

The BASP center covers the following research projects: