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Hermínia de Lencastre Lab


The long-range interest of the laboratory is in the epidemiology, genetics, evolutionary and biochemical mechanisms of antibiotic resistant pathogens, specifically, staphylococci, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and enterococci..



Hermínia de Lencastre
Professora Catedrática
PhD in Biology 1981 UNL

Phone (+351) 211157788



Research Interests

The emergence and spread of antibiotic resistant clones of Staphylococcus spp., and Streptococcus pneumoniae pose a public health threat worldwide. The phenomenon also presents fascinating problems of basic science, such as the evolutionary origin of resistance genes; the mechanism of antibiotic resistance and the question of what combination of determinants provides the epidemic “success” of these pathogens. Our laboratory is actively involved both in the public health related and also in the biological aspects of this problem.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are a major cause of nosocomial infections worldwide and have emerged recently in the healthy community, posing a public health concern. We aim to characterize the molecular epidemiology of MRSA in hospitals and in the community and to track the evolutionary origin and spread of the ß-lactam resistance gene. Other staphylococcal species are also under study as they are thought to be important reservoirs and key players in the evolution of ß-lactam resistance determinants.

Moreover, we investigate the molecular mechanisms leading to ß -lactam resistance in MRSA, namely through the study of the biosynthetic steps of peptidoglycan, a major cell wall component and target of these antibiotics. Several approaches are used, including the biochemical characterization of cell wall mutants, studies on gene expression regulation and protein interactions.

S. pneumoniae remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide causing a wide range of infectious diseases. Its sole ecological niche is the human nasopharynx and children of preschool age their major reservoir. Our laboratory has been engaged since 1996 in extensive studies aimed to better understand the nasopharyngeal ecosystem and how it is affected by interventions such as antibiotic use and vaccines. Since 2011 our work on Pneumo has been carried out in collaboration with Dr. Raquel Sá-Leão Laboratory.

Our research is done in collaboration with Portuguese and foreign scientists worldwide through CEM/NET and other initiatives and has been supported by the European Community, Fundação Para a Ciência e Tecnologia and Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.


Group Members

  • Alexander Tomasz, Ph. D Adjunct Full Professor

  • Ana Madalena Ludovice, Assist. Prof., FCT/UNL

  • Rita G. Sobral, Auxiliary, Assist. Prof., FCT/UNL

  • Catarina Milheiriço, Ph.D., Post-Doc

  • Teresa Conceição, Ph.D., Post-Doc

  • Inês Grilo, Ph. D., Post-Doc, FCT/UNL

  • Celine Coelho, Master Degree student

  • Melinda Conde, Master Degree student

  • Manuela Nogueira, Administrative Assistant


Selected Publications

  1. Chung, M., C. K. Kim, T. Conceição, M. Aires-de-Sousa, H. de Lencastre, and A. Tomasz. 2016. Heterogeneous oxacillin-resistant phenotypes and production of PBP2A by oxacillin-susceptible/mecA-positive MRSA strains from Africa. J. Antimicrob. Chemother. 71:2804-9.
  2. Dordel J., C. Kim, M. Chung, M. Pardos de la Gándara, M. T. Holden, J. Parkhill, H. de Lencastre, S. D. Bentley, and A. Tomasz  2014. Novel determinants of antibiotic resistance: identification of mutated loci in highly methicillin-resistant subpopulations of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. MBio. 5:e01000

  3. Kim, C., C. Milheiriço, S. Gardete, M. A. Holmes, M. T. G. Holden, H. de Lencastre, and A. Tomasz. 2012. Properties of a novel PBP2A protein homolog from Staphylococcus aureus strain LGA251 and its contribution to the ß-lactam resistant phenotype. J. Biol. Chem. 287:36854-63.


Laboratory's Website

For further information visit the laboratory's website


Genética Molecular (PT)

Um dos principais objectivos do nosso laboratório foca o estudo do mecanismo de resistência aos antibióticos ß-lactâmicos em Staphylococcus aureus, cujo elemento central é o gene exógeno mecA. Pretendemos responder a duas questões importantes em biologia evolutiva, nomeadamente o(s) mecanismos(s) de aquisição do gene mecA pela bactéria hospedeira e como é que este gene proporciona um fenótipo de resistência.

Outro objectivo é caracterizar, por métodos de epidemiologia molecular e por sequenciação completa do genoma, a estrutura populacional de bactérias patogénicas - Staphylococcus aureus, e os estafilococos coagulase negativos, responsáveis por um elevado número de infecções em hospitais e na comunidade em todo o mundo, constituindo uma causa importante de morbilidade e mortalidade. Pretendemos ainda, pela caracterização molecular de estirpes provenientes destes dois ambientes, estabelecer ligações epidemiológicas entre eles e compreender os mecanismos moleculares da sua evolução.



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