Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) and kills approximately two million people each year, more than any other bacterial pathogen. Yet, Mtb is one of the least understood bacterial pathogens. Virulence of Mtb is mainly associated with its ability to survive within macrophages. The outer membrane (OM) is an efficient permeability barrier for toxic molecules and plays a key role in protecting Mtb from the host immune system. To date, the molecular basis for the transport of most solutes across the OM is unknown for Mtb. The aim of our research is to identify and characterize the OM proteome of Mtb. The identification of proteins that enable transport of solutes across the OM would represent a major breakthrough in our understanding of the physiology and drug resistance of Mtb. The results of this research will be exploited to improve tuberculosis chemotherapy.
Michael Niederweis (b. 1964), Associate Professor of Microbiology, received a diploma in chemistry from the Saarland University, Germany, in 1989, and a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Erlangen-Nuernberg, Germany, in 1993. His graduate studies were with Dr. Wolfgang Hillen on the structural analysis of protein-DNA interactions. From 1994-1996, Dr. Niederweis did postdoctoral studies with Dr. Donald Crothers at the Yale University, New Haven, Dr. Lee W. Riley at the Cornell University, Medical College, New York, and Dr. Roland Benz, University of Wuerzburg. In 1997, he established his laboratory in the Microbiology Department of the University of Erlangen-Nuernberg, Germany, to study mycobacterial porins. He obtained multiple young investigator awards. Dr. Niederweis joined the UAB faculty in 2004.