Vivek Narayan L&S Sciences
Investigating the ability of gut commensals to confer ammonia resistance to worm hosts
Within the last decade, research on the microbiota has begun to shed light on the immense contribution of gut microbes to host health, metabolism, immunity, and reproduction. Even more recently, studies have identified systems in which animals that are exposed to a toxin have acquired gut bacteria that confer resistance to the animal host. I am particularly interested in ammonia, a chemical that is toxic in high concentrations to most animals. All life on earth requires nitrogen, yet the multi-step nitrogen cycle relies primarily on bacteria to carry out steps such as nitrogen fixation (converting inorganic nitrogen to ammonia) and nitrification (the oxidation of ammonia to the relatively non-toxic nitrate), in order to make nitrogen bioavailable. In particular, only a few select genera of Bacteria and Archaea the nitrifying bacteria are capable of nitrification. I will be researching whether nitrifying bacteria can colonize the gut of the worm C. elegans and confer ammonia resistance in C. elegans hosts.