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Dr Helen O’Hare

Supervisor Details

Helen O'Hare

Contact Details

Dr Helen O'Hare

Department of Respiratory Sciences, University of Leicester


Research Interests

I am interested in bacterial physiology at the molecular level with a particular focus on human pathogens like Mycobacterium tuberculosis and on industrial strains. Recent achievements of my group include discovering a protein kinase signalling pathway that allows M. tuberculosis to regulate central metabolism by sensing amino acids in its surroundings.

Research group activity

Molecular mechanisms of sensory perception and metabolic regulation in bacteria

The main aim of my research group is to determine the molecular mechanisms by which bacteria sense and respond to their environment, with a particular focus on protein kinase G in the human pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Phosphorylation at serine and threonine emerged as a ubiquitous mechanism of signal transduction in bacteria from genome sequencing in the 1990s. Serine and threonine protein kinases are now known to regulate critical bacterial processes including central carbon metabolism and cell division, but identification of the stimuli of kinase activation and the downstream effects of kinase activation are outstanding questions in the field.

My group study the complete PknG signalling pathway, from activation by amino acids to the downstream roles of kinase substrates in regulating central metabolism, with the result that PknG is one of only a handful of bacterial S/T kinases for which the activation stimuli are known, and arguably the only bacterial FHA-mediated signalling pathway with a complete molecular description (FHA=forkhead associated domain, a ubiquitous phospho-threonine recognition domain).

We are also working on the conserved pathways in the industrial “workhorse” Corynebacterium glutamicum (used to produce >$6 billion dollars of amino acids per year) and the antibiotic producing Streptomyces (>$1billion dollar market).

We collaborate with groups within the institute and Departments of Respiratory Science and Molecular and Cell Biology to validate anti-TB drug targets and for structure based drug discovery (Russell Wallis), to study protein phosphorylation at the level of the phosphoproteome and in regulation of bacterial cell growth (Galina Mukamolova), and to study the function of these signalling pathways in infection models (Leicester TB Research Group).

Scientific Inspiration

When I studied for my PhD, science conversations were the “norm” at tea, coffee or lunchtime. It was ok to ask any science question of anyone, even the group leaders. This was inspiring!

Project Details

Dr Helen O'Hare is supervising no projects this year.