Battling biofilms – understanding how novel genes impact biofilm formation


Most bacteria in nature exist in communities adhered to surfaces or each other known as biofilms.

Bacterial biofilms are crucial to health and most chronic infections include a biofilm component. We also use biofilms in various industrial processes. Given their importance it is essential to understand how biofilms form and can be modified to develop new ways to prevent infections or improve biotechnological processes.

We recently identified all the genes needed by two important pathogens, E. coli and Salmonella to form biofilms over time – this identified a wide range of genes including some not previously known to have a role in biofilm formation. This included MaoP, a protein known to have a role in chromosome segregation but not biofilm formation. Deletion of MaoP results in a large reduction in biofilm formation in both species studied with reduced production of biofilm matrix components.

This project aims to identify how MaoP affects biofilm formation using a mixture of microbiology, genetics, biochemistry and informatics. We will then explore how MaoP could be exploited to modify biofilm formation.

The student will join a large community of molecular microbiologists within the Quadram Institute in a brand new, purpose built building with state of the art facilities.

The Quadram Institute is based on the Norwich Research Park – home to one of the largest groups of microbiologists in europe and the student will join a large cohort of graduate researchers with exceptional training opportunities.

Informal enquiries can be sent to


1: Holden ER, Yasir M, Turner AK, Wain J, Charles IG, Webber MA. Massively parallel transposon mutagenesis identifies temporally essential genes for biofilm formation in Escherichia col. Microb Genom. 2021 Nov;7(11):000673. doi: 10.1099/mgen.0.000673. PMID: 34783647; PMCID: PMC8743551.

2: Yasir M, Turner AK, Bastkowski S, Baker D, Page AJ, Telatin A, Phan MD, Monahan L, Savva GM, Darling A, Webber MA, Charles IG. TraDIS-Xpress: a high-resolution whole-genome assay identifies novel mechanisms of triclosan action and resistance. Genome Res. 2020 Feb;30(2):239-249. doi: 10.1101/gr.254391.119. Epub 2020 Feb 12. PMID: 32051187; PMCID: PMC7050523.