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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

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


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