Lea Vacca Michel — College of Science
NTHi is a Gram-negative bacterium and "P6" is the protein under study in the Michel Lab. Although P6 had been well studied for its immunological properties, not much was known about its structural orientation or localization in NTHi until Dr. Michel began to study it. For years it was assumed that P6 was a transmembrane protein, allowing it to interact with both intracellular and extracellular molecules while physically spanning the membrane. Using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and protein modeling, her group demonstrated that P6 could not span the membrane (Vaccine 2011, 29: 1624-1627). Further study showed that P6 was inserted into the outer membrane on NTHi in two distinct orientations- a biological phenomenon seen in only one other bacterial lipoprotein (Michel et al J Bacteriol 2013, revision under review).
For the past 3 years, Dr. Michels group has worked in collaboration with Michael Pichichero, MD and his team at the Rochester General Hospital Research Institute. Dr. Pichichero is a physician scientist, the Director of RGHRI, and his team uses a combination of epidemiology, immunology, molecular biology and microbiology to study proteins of NTHi and other respiratory bacteria as vaccine candidates.
Dr. Michel was recently awarded a grant from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation through the Special Grant Program in the Chemical Sciences to work with deaf students on P6 research.