URI graduate student honored
by American Society of Microbiology
KINGSTON, R.I. -- August 23, 1999 -- For Steven Denkin, there's nothing
fishy about gastrointestinal mucus in Atlantic salmon or other fin fish.
Denkin, a graduate student in the Microbiology Program at the University
of Rhode Island, has been investigating the gene expression of Vibrio anguillarum,
a bacterial pathogen that causes the disease vibriosis in salmon and other
farmed fish, during growth in mucus. Recently, the American Society for
Microbiology (ASM) awarded Denkin a travel grant and an award of excellence
for his work.
After submitting a poster titled "Induction of Protease Activity
by Gastrointestinal Mucus in Vibrio anguillarum," Denkin was selected
by ASM to receive a $400 travel grant to attend ASM's annual conference
in Chicago. He was also recognized with an award of excellence, an honor
bestowed upon only 15 recipients.
"I was thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to be in Chicago
at this conference. There were people from all over the world presenting
their findings on topics of such importance. It was a great experience,"
said Denkin, of Floral Park, NY.
Denkin first became interested in microbiology after taking a genetics
course during his sophomore year. Later, he began working in URI Biochemistry,
Microbiology, and Molecular Genetics Professor David Nelson's laboratory
on a USDA funded research project and began a more in-depth study of a protein
produced by V. anguillarum. The protein, a protease (an enzyme that degrades
proteins), is secreted by invading bacteria and may be involved in promoting
the hemorrhagic septicemia that characterizes this fish disease. Denkin
showed that the protease is specifically produced when the bacteria are
grown in salmon gastrointestinal mucus. This research shows that growth
in mucus can promote disease-causing factors in bacteria. According to
Denkin, this is one of the most threatening diseases to aquaculture in the
world today and is a menace to fish farms. By studying this protein and
its encoding gene, Denkin hopes to be able to develop a greater understanding
of bacterial pathogenesis. This knowledge should lead to the development
of new and improved vaccines against this and other diseases.
The paper that Denkin and Nelson, of Wakefield, wrote on the
subject, in application for the travel grant, was published in the August
issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
As for Denkin's future plans, he admits that once definitely wasn't
enough. "I would love to attend the conference next year in Los Angeles.
Hopefully, if I continue this work, I can apply for another travel grant.
I really want to go back," remarked Denkin.
For More Information: Jan Sawyer, 401-874-2116