Bacteria have various defense systems, for example to protect themselves against phages—viruses that infect bacteria. Part of these bacterial defense strategies are so-called viperins: small antiviral proteins that bacteria use to combat phages. To better understand the mechanisms of action of these viperins, Ahsen Özcan now wants to investigate alternative classes of nucleoside triphosphates (pre-stage constituents of nucleic acids, or NTPs for short).
In a new project at the Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research (HIRI) in Würzburg, the scientist plans to investigate deoxyNTPs (dNTPs—NTPs without oxygen). Her hypothesis: With the help of dNTPs, bacterial viperins produce molecules that can block certain enzymes of viral ribonucleic acids (RNA) and thus prevent the replication of phages.
DFG Priority Program SPP 2330
Özcan, who holds a PhD in microbiology, is receiving funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG) for her work. She has a total of around 52,000 euros in start-up funding for postdocs to use over a period of six months. The funds come from the DFG Priority Program SPP 2330, which aims to study phages.
"The start-up funding from the DFG provides a great opportunity to gain new data on alternative inhibitory mechanisms of viperins in phage defense," says postdoc Özcan, who is pleased with the funding. She is hoping that her findings could one day lead to novel technologies to improve the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases in humans.