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Release: August 6, 1999

Three UI researchers receive National Institutes of Health grants

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Three researchers in the University of Iowa department of microbiology have received grants totaling more than $2.5 million from the National Institutes of Health.

David S. Weiss, Ph.D., UI assistant professor of microbiology, has been awarded $982,875 for his five-year project, "Assembly of the Division Septum in Escherichia coli." The long-term focus of Weiss' work is cell division in bacteria. A better understanding of the issues surrounding cell division might lead to better approaches to developing new antibiotics. The grant funds studies of an Escherichia coli cell division protein.

E. Peter Greenberg, Ph.D., UI professor of microbiology, received a $954,934 award for his project "Quorum Sensing in Pseudomonas aeruginosa." During the four-year study, Greenberg will investigate the regulatory circuits that help control the population density-dependence of the disease-evoking power of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. When the population of some bacteria becomes too dense they form what is known as a biofilm, an organized group of bacteria that works together to defend against attack from antibiotics and the body's immune system. Greenberg wants to trace all of the factors controlled by population density in a pseudomonas infection. This should provide important clues about how to break the chronic infections caused by this bacterium.

Richard Roller, Ph.D., UI assistant professor of microbiology, was awarded $605,476 for his five-year investigation of "The Role of UL34 in Herpes Simplex Virus Infection." The grant will fund studies of how herpes simplex viruses (HSVs) exit cells. Like all viruses, HSVs must get inside cell nuclei to replicate themselves, then cross several cellular membranes to get out and infect new cells. The newly made virus particles begin their escape by wrapping themselves in one of the cellular membranes, then enter the secretion machinery of the cell. Roller's lab has identified a viral protein that helps coordinate that escape process. By studying the protein, Roller hopes to learn how the virus particle interacts with the cellular membranes. Since this step is necessary for replication of all human herpes viruses, it is a key to developing therapies for herpes virus diseases.