CRISPR immunity and the spread of mobile genetic elements
Mobile genetic elements such as phage and conjugative plasmids play a key role in enabling microbes to adapt to new ecological niches. Unfortunately, one such niche is human-created environments (such as farms and hospitals) characterized by high antibiotic use. In this project we seek to understand the dynamics of conjugative plasmid spread at a single-cell level, as well as how this spread is affected by CRISPR-Cas systems. To do so we label the various molecular players with fluorescent tags, enabling us to use time-lapse fluorescence microscopy to directly observe individual conjugation and interference events. Ultimately, we seek to connect recent work elucidating the dynamics of relevant players such as CRISPR effector proteins to the larger-scale population dynamics of mobile genetic element spread.