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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

KS-LSAMP Student Studies Interference Competition Among Biovar 1 Agrobacteria

Natalie Melendez-Velador
Presenting at the 2019 KS-LSAMP
 Research Immersion: Pathways to STEM Poster Session
     Animals and plants have always been of interest to Natalie Melendez-Velador, and being good in science helped to solidify her pursuit of a biology focus in her Bridges Program at Seward County Community College. This summer, Natalie participated in the 2019 Pathways to STEM: Kansas Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (KS-LSAMP) program and was sponsored by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS). KS-LSAMP is funded by the National Science Foundation and "promotes recruitment and retention programs throughout Kansas in support of increasing the success of underrepresented minority students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The summer portion of KS-LSAMP is called Research Immersion: Pathways to STEM (RiPS) and is an 8-week summer research program that "aims to introduce students to the process of research and assist in their academic and professional success."
Dr. Thomas Platt and Natalie Melendez-Velador
with members of the Platt Lab Team
   Natalie worked with Dr. Thomas Platt, Synthesis Team Leader for the MAPS project and Assistant Professor of Biology at Kansas State University. She also worked with Ashlee Herken, a graduate student with the Platt Lab.  She titled her project, Interference Competition Among Biovar 1 Agrobacteria from Helianthus annuus Roots. According to Natalie, her summer research was very similar to the research she was already doing in her Bridges program. She specified the summer "research focused on methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus and multi-drug resistant bacteria.” Natalie explained her project as follows: “In this study, we aimed to determine whether a sample of biovar 1 agrobacteria produce bacteriocins inhibiting the growth of several pathogenic strains, including strains with whom they co-occur. This work has the potential to lead to the discovery of noval biocontrol agents for crown gall disease. Root samples of common sunflowers, Helianthus annuus, were collected from Konza Prairie. Isolates were grown on semi-selective media that supports the growth of biovar 1 agrobacteria but excludes the growth of most fungi and bacteria present in the microbial communities on plant roots. We used an inhibition assay to determine if agrobacterial isolates produce bacteriocins interfering with the growth of Agrobacterium tumefaciens strains C58, 15955, and K203. Each of these strains is pathogenic with C58 containing a nopaline-type Ti plasmid, 15955 containing an octopine-type Ti plasmid, and K203 being isolated from the same plant as some of the isolates being tested. Experiments are ongoing but preliminary results indicate that several of the environmental isolates inhibit the growth of C58 but not 15955 or K203. This strain-specific inhibition is consistent with prior work with pathogenic agrobacteria, however, we see no evidence for bacteriocin mediated interference competition among co-occurring strains. Future work will aim to determine the mechanisms mediating strain-specific C58 inhibition, including the possibility that inhibition depends on Ti plasmid encoded functions.” And she added, "the research focused on methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus and multi-drug resistant bacteria."
    The best part of the summer RiPS KS-LSAMP experience for Natalie was “getting to meet a wide variety of people who each have unique skill sets and experiences.” From this summer experience, Natalie added she “learned new scientific techniques, as well as, how to communicate with team members and diverse audiences about my research.” Natalie presented her research poster at the 2019 LSAMP Poster Session held at Kansas State University on July 24, 2019.
    Natalie is originally from Liberal, KS.  This fall, she will be a sophomore at Seward County Community College pursuing an Associate Degree in Biology. As for her future plans, she said “After getting my associate's degree, I plan to transfer to Kansas State University in the fall of 2020 and major in Biology. I also plan on continuing my research next summer with Dr. Platt.”

Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for the KS-LSAMP is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas. The grant's workforce development and educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems.