The Sankari Lab works at the interface of biochemistry, cell biology, microbial physiology, and plant biology to understand the mechanism of action of host plant peptides and translate them to clinical applications. Host peptides in plants play an important role in governing the molecular interplay between microbes.
The role of host peptides in the elimination of pathogenic bacteria is well studied, yet the mechanism of how they act on symbiotic bacteria and how the bacteria tolerate these peptides is complex and is a focus of the lab. Research following the detailed mechanism of one of the host peptides from alfalfa demonstrated how peptides have evolved to fine-tune the cellular metabolism of bacteria, and has unlocked a broad field of study involving a large set of uncharacterized peptides that have specifically evolved to manipulate bacteria.
The Sankari Lab develops tools and methodologies to study the action of host peptides of interest on bacteria and utilizes them to understand their biological functions. Ongoing research aimed at improving human health and agriculture exploits their physiochemical properties to develop clinical, biotechnological, bioremediation, and sustainable agricultural applications. The lab also works on understanding the nuances of metal homeostasis during symbiosis. Trace metal nutrients, while toxic in high concentrations, are essential resources delicately shared between the host and symbiotic bacteria with host peptides maintaining this balance.
Future research will expand understanding of other components frequently present in the plant vesicles (RNAi, small molecules) that are directed from plants toward symbiotic bacteria. The lab will also explore the role of host peptides in maintaining and modulating the gut commensal ecosystem.