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Bacterial Cell Biology


In the Bacterial Cell Biology laboratory we use the Gram positive pathogen Staphylococcus aureus to study the mechanisms of cell division and of antibiotic resistance to cell wall targeting antibiotics.



Mariana Gomes de Pinho
Investigador Auxiliar
PhD in 2001, Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Phone (+351) 214469527 | Extension 1527


Research Interests

Bacterial cells have revealed a surprising degree of protein organization. Many essential cellular processes are performed by higher order protein complexes, which are precisely regulated in time and space. An example of such processes is cell division, which has been studied in any detail only in a few model organisms.

Staphylococcus aureus is a Gram positive pathogen and the most common cause of antibiotic resistant hospital-acquired infections. Besides its clinical relevance, S. aureus is also a very interesting model to study cell division because it has a different shape and mode of division from the traditional, widely used, model organisms Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis: it has round (coccoid) shaped cells and, more interestingly, divides in three consecutive perpendicular division planes over three division cycles, similarly to the first divisions of a fertilized egg. For a bacterial cell to divide it has to double its mass, replicate its genome and synthesize a septum between the two daughter cells. It is this last process that is inhibited by a large number of antibiotics, such as beta-lactams or glycopeptides, which target cell wall synthesis.

In the Bacterial Cell Biology laboratory, which started in the beginning of 2006, the aim is to understand, at a molecular level, the organization and the temporal and spatial regulation of two fundamental steps of cell division - the segregation of the bacterial chromosome and the synthesis of the division septum, as well as to integrate this information for a better understanding of antibiotic resistance mechanisms in S. aureus


Group Members

    • Patricia Reed, Post Doc
    • Pedro Matos, PhD student
    • Helena Veiga, PhD student
    • João Monteiro, PhD student
    • Teresa Ferreira, PhD student
    • Raquel Pereira, MSc
    • Bernardino Moreira, MSc
    • Pedro Fernandes, Master student
    • Gabriela Henriques, Master student

Selected Publications

  1. Veiga, H., A.M. Jorge and M.G. Pinho. 2011. Absence of nucleoid occlusion effector Noc impairs formation of orthogonal FtsZ rings during Staphylococcus aureus cell division. Mol. Microbiol. 80:1366-1380
  2. Atilano M.L., P.M. Pereira, J. Yates, P. Reed, H. Veiga, M.G. Pinho* and S.R. Filipe*.2010. Teichoic acids are temporal and spatial regulators of peptidoglycan cross-linking in Staphylococcus aureus. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 107: 18991–18996. *co-last authors
  3. Zapun, A., T. Vernet and M. G. Pinho 2008 The different shapes of cocci.
    FEMS Microbiol Lett, 32:345-360.

Laboratory's Website

For further information please visit the laboratory's website


Biologia Celular Bacteriana (PT)

No laboratório de Biologia Celular Bacteriana do ITQB utilizamos a bactéria patogénica Staphylococcus aureus como organismo modelo para estudar o processo de divisão celular, ou seja, o processo pelo qual uma célula bacteriana dá origem a duas células “filhas” idênticas. Estamos principalmente interessados nos processos de segregação dos cromossomas para cada uma das células filhas e de síntese da parede celular que divide a célula mãe ao meio durante a divisão. Pretendemos identificar as maquinarias proteicas responsáveis por estes processos, bem como estudar a sua regulação no espaço e no tempo.

A divisão celular pode ser impedida pela acção de vários antibióticos. Uma vez que Staphylococcus aureus constitui uma das principais causas de infecções hospitalares resistentes a antibióticos, estamos muito interessados no estudo de mecanismos de resistência a antibióticos que actuam inibindo a síntese da parede celular, bem como na resposta das bactérias à presença destes antibióticos.


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