Dr. Konovalova is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the McGovern Medical School at UT Health. Dr. Konovalova joined the department in 2017 after completing her postdoctoral training with Professor Thomas J. Silhavy at Princeton University in Princeton, USA. Dr. Konovalova received her Ph.D. in 2011 for her graduate thesis work in the laboratory of Prof. Lotte Søgaard-Andersen at the Max-Plank Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg, Germany.
Dr. Konovalova is a recipient of the Texas Rising STAR Award (2017).
Konovalova lab is focused on the biogenesis and maintenance of bacterial cell surfaces. We are particularly interested in the following areas:
Envelope stress responses and antibiotic resistance
Bacterial cell envelope is an essential organelle; it serves as a protective barrier of the cell and determines cell shape. However, it also carries out many dynamic cellular processes including active nutrient uptake, energy generation, protein secretion as well as communication between the cell and the environment.
Our immune system produces multiple factors that target bacterial envelope. Among them are cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs) that destabilize the outer membrane (OM) by binding to the surface glycolipid called lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and make bacteria sensitive to lysozyme and other factors. CAMPs such as colistin and polymyxin B are also used in clinic as last-hope antibiotics against Gram-negatives.
But bacteria, in turn, have evolved an Rcs envelope stress response to reinforce their membrane when antimicrobial peptides are present. In my lab we are trying to understand how Rcs detects presents of antibiotics and transmits this information from the cell surface inside the cells to promote survival under antibiotic treatment.
Surface-exposed lipoproteins in Gram-negative bacteria
Until recently it was believed that surface-exposed proteins in Gram-negative bacteria are represented exclusively by integral barrel-shaped outer membrane proteins (OMPs), while peripheral lipoproteins that are tethered to the OM by lipids always faced the interior of the cell, specifically the compartment between the OM and the cytoplasmic membrane, which is called the periplasm. However, recent work, including our own research on the lipoprotein RcsF, has revealed the presence of lipoproteins on the cell surface (surface-exposed lipoproteins, SLps).
This new research uncovered important roles for SLps in bacterial physiology, pathogenesis and serve as important antigens and are useful targets for vaccine development. We use an interdisciplinary approach, including genetic, biochemistry and mass spectrometry, to study how SLps localize to the cell surface, and what the role SLps play in host-microbe interactions.