Prof. Armen Trchounian Poster Award: Milka Malesevic
Milka Malesevic was the winner of the Prof. Armen Trchounian Poster Award at our FEMS Conference in Belgrade. The award recognizes the best poster from an early-career microbiologist in a transition economy. We would like to wish Milka congratulations and all the best in her future career! Below you can read our interview with Milka and learn more about her research.
Prof. Trchounian was a renowned, popular, and prodigious microbiologist. He was Head of the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Biotechnology at Yerevan State University (Yerevan, Armenia) and FEMS Delegate for many years but sadly passed away on 18 November 2020, aged 64. As well as a highly respected scientist, Armen was also a mentor to students and a proud ambassador of his beloved home country, Armenia.
To combine these two elements of his life and career, his family have endowed a prize to recognize work by an early career researcher from the region. Those submitting abstracts that meet the eligibility criteria will be able to apply for the award as part of the submission process.
What is your current position, and what was your scientific journey to get there?
I am currently at the Post Doc position in the Laboratory for Molecular Microbiology, at the Institute of Molecular Genetics and Genetic Engineering (IMGGE), University of Belgrade. I completed my PhD in Molecular Biology of Prokaryotes at the Faculty of Biology, University of Belgrade, carrying out experimental work at the IMGGE under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Branko Jovčić. The main focus of my PhD research was the search for novel biomolecules that could silence bacterial cell-to-cell communication aka quorum sensing system, and thus disrupt bacterial virulence and pathogenicity. But now, I am more focused on bioinformatics, especially metagenomic research as a part of Bioinformatics group at IMGGE.”
Could you describe the research your poster covered?
My presentation gave an insight into global problem concerning antibiotic resistance of ESKAPE pathogens, especially Pseudomonas aeruginosa, one of the most notorious. Thus, novel antivirulence therapy has been recognized as a new promising tool. This therapy consists of developing novel therapeutics that operate under different principles from the currently available antibiotics and target the previouslly mentioned quorum sensing system. Therefore, the use of antivirulence therapy based on the silencing of bacterial communication could serve as a promising tool in the control of infections caused by P. aeruginosa representatives for which there is no adequate therapy with currently available antibiotics. In that manner, we found two quorum quenching enzymes lactonases YtnP and Y2-aiiA originated from Burkholderia cepacia clinical isolate, that have ability to silence the quorum sensing system of P. aeruginosa. Both enzymes were able to attenuate the virulence potential of P. aeruginosa declining its biofilm formation and virulence factors production such as elastase, pyocyanin and rhamnolipid. These results were also supported on mRNA level; both lactonases downregulated all three analyzed P. aeruginosa quorum sensing networks- the las, rhl, and pqs. Y2-aiiA lactonase has shown to be more effective in lowering the expression of all analyzed genes compared to YtnP.
Altogether, the results obtained in our study indicate that analyzed quorum quenching enzymes have promising therapeutic potential.”
What do you hope to focus your research on in the future?
My future research will go in two directions- one is continuation with the study on B. cepacia lactonases that will include mutants construction and in vivo studies, and another is bioinformatics with a particular focus on metagenomics.”