Petra Anne Levin, PhD


Plant and Microbial Biosciences Program
Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis Program
Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural Biology Program
Molecular Cell Biology Program

  • 314-935-7888

  • 314-935-5250

  • 314-935-4432

  • 301 Rebstock Hall



  • Bacterial, growth size, antibiotics, tolerance, antibiotic resistance, systems biology, cytoskeleton, biochemistry, microbiology, microscopy

  • Bacterial growth and antibiotic susceptibility

Research Abstract:

Antibiotic Resistance & Tolerance
Bacteria possess a chameleon-like ability to adapt to changes in nutrient availability, osmotic stress, and pH. Growth in nutrient poor conditions leads to accumulation of the small molecule ppGpp. ppGpp is implicated in antibiotic tolerance and the development of persister cells that survive for long periods in the presence of bacteriocidal compounds. We are identifying ppGpp-dependent mechanisms underlying tolerance to antibiotics targeting DNA replication, cell wall synthesis, and protein synthesis. We are also investigating a newly identified link between environmental pH and resistance to cell wall active drugs.

Cell Growth, Cell Size, and Cell Cycle Progression
Nutrient availability is a primary determinant of cell size. Single celled organisms cultured in nutrient rich medium can be up to three times the size of their counterparts cultured under nutrient poor conditions. Understanding the regulatory circuits and molecular mechanisms responsible for coordinating cell growth and cell size with nutrient availability and cell cycle progression is a primary objective of the lab.

Cell Division
In bacteria, cell division is initiated by assembly of the tubulin-like cytoskeletal protein FtsZ into a ring-like structure at the future division site. The FtsZ ring serves as a scaffold for assembly of the division machinery, guiding cell wall synthesis during cytokinesis. Changes in FtsZ assembly dynamics ensure that bacterial cells divide in the right place and at the right time. Identifying the regulatory factors coupling FtsZ assembly and division to cell growth and the cell cycle is a primary objective of this area of investigation.

Selected Publications:

Mueller, E. A., A. J. F. Egan, E. Breukink, W. Vollmer, and P. A. Levin (2019) Plasticity in Escherichia coli cell wall metabolism promotes fitness and antibiotic resistance across environmental conditions, eLife, in press.

McAuley, S., S. Vadia, C. Jani, A. Huynh, ‡Z. Yang, P. A. Levin, and J. Nodwell (2019) A chemical inhibitor of cell growth reduces cell size in Bacillus subtilis, ACS Chemical Biology, In press.

Westfall, C. S., A. L. Flores-Mireles, J. I. Robinson, A. J. L. Lynch, S. Hultgren, J. P. Henderson, and P. A. Levin (2019) The widely used antimicrobial triclosan induces high levels of antibiotic tolerance in vitro and reduces antibiotic efficacy up to 100-fold in vivo. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. doi: 10.1128/AAC.02312-18. PMID:30782996

Mueller, E. A. and P. A. Levin (2018) Evolving to End a Toxic Relationship: ADP Ribosylation in Interbacterial Warfare, Cell, 175(5):1182-1184. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.10.051. PMID: 30445038

Hill, N. S., J. Zuke, P. J. Buske, A-C Chien, and P. A. Levin (2018) A nutrient-dependent division antagonist is regulated post-translationally by the Clp proteases in Bacillus subtilis, BMC Microbiol 18:29-43. PMID: 29625553

Westfall, C. S. and P. A. Levin (2018) Comprehensive analysis of central carbon metabolism reveals multiple connections between nutrients, biosynthetic capacity, and cell morphology in Escherichia coli, PLOS Genetics, 14(2) e1007205. PMID:29432413

Westfall, C. S. and P. A. Levin (2017) Bacterial Cell Size: Multifactorial and Multifaceted, Invited review for Annual Review of Microbiology, 71: 499-517. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-micro-090816-093803 PMID: 28886685

Vadia, S., J. L. Tse, Z. ‡Yang, R. Lucena, D. Kellogg, J. Wang, and P. A. Levin (2017) Fatty acid synthesis sets cell envelope capacity and dictates microbial cell size, Curr Biol 27:R1757-1767. DOI: PMID: 28602657

Arjes, H.A., B. Lai, ‡E. R. Emelue, A. Steinbach, and P. A. Levin (2015) Mutations in the bacterial cell division protein FtsZ highlight the role of GTP binding and longitudinal subunit interactions in assembly and function. BMC Microbiology, 5:209 DOI 10.1186/s12866-015-0544-z. PMID: 26463348

Land, A.D., P. Hogan, S. Fritz and P. A. Levin (2015) Phenotypic variation is almost entirely independent of the host-pathogen relationship in clinical isolates of S. aureus, PLoS ONE, 10(6):e0129670. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0129670. PMID: 26098551.

Last Updated: 4/5/2019 10:05:06 AM

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