• Prevention and Control of Important Endemic, Zoonotic and New Diseases of Animals (Work Package 6.2 – Animal Health), funded by the Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS). The aim of the work is to increase our knowledge of the interactions of zoonotic bacteria with plants and environmental reservoirs of disease. Part of this work is in the characterisation of naturally occurring bacteria that are present in agricultural systems, whether on soil or in plants (Jacqueline Marshall), which allows comparison to isolates found in animal hosts (David Smith), as well as to clinical isolates (Thamarai Schneiders).
  • Identification and functional analysis of surface factors that enable human pathogens to adhere to and colonise plants, funded by the BBSRC. The research focuses on adherence factors of Escherichia coli O157:H7 that mediate interactions with plants. Some adherence factors already have a role in plant interactions attributed to them and this project investigates these in greater detail, as well as identifies novel factors. This project uses a combination of molecular approaches to identify novel factors (Ashleigh Holmes and David Gally).
  • Defining the interactions between plant cell walls and bacterial surface factors, funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The research aims to identify targets on plant cells that are specifically recognised by bacteria adherence factors., focusing on characterised adherence factors of enteric human pathogens as well as closely-related plant pathogens. The work uses a variety of biochemical techniques to identify plant factors, including glycomics (Yannick Rossez, William Willats, Ian Toth).
  • Transcriptome analysis of enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli in planta, co-funded by the James Hutton Institute and the University of Reading. The research aims to undercover the basis to adaptive gene expression changes that occur in E. coli O157:H7 in association with plant hosts. The interactions are investigated with various hosts, including domesticated and wild lettuce species (Louise Birse, Robert Jackson).

Previous research projects

  • Assessment of plant elicitors to induce resistance against head-rot in broccoli, funded by the Horticultural Development Company, project FV 378. The project tested a number of different plant defence elicitors in their ability to control soft rot in broccoli heads, caused by a number of soil-borne opportunistic plant pathogenic bacteria (Adrian Newton, Dale Walters).
  • Reducing bacterial infection in seed onions through the use of plant elicitors funded by the Horticultural Development Company, project FV 393. The project tested plant defence elicitors in their ability to control soft rot in bulb onions, caused by Burkholderia bacteria (Adrian Newton).
  • Exploitation of rapid sequence generation for sub-species identification of pathogen bacteria. Validation of technique that created diagnostic primers derived for bacterial genomic sequence of the sprout-associated pathogen, E. coli O104:H4, in collaboration with Helge Karch and Leighton Pritchard.

Relevant publications

  • Downie, H., Holden, N., Otten, W., Spiers, A.J., Valentine, T.A., and Dupuy, L.X. 2012. Transparent soil for imaging the rhizosphere. PLoS ONE 7, e44276.
  • Holden, N.J., Pritchard, L., Bielaszewska, M., Karch, H., and Toth, I.K. 2012. Alignment-free design of highly discriminatory diagnostic primer sets for Escherichia coli O104:H4 outbreak strains. PLoS ONE 7, e34498.
  • Holden, N.J., Toth, I.K., Newton, A., and Walters, D. 2012. The use of plant elicitors in the control of bacterial infection in field vegetables. Paper presented at: Crop Protection in Northern Britain 2012 Conference Proceedings (Dundee).
  • Holden, N.J. 2012. Adherence, biofilm and motility characteristics of plant associated Salmonella enterica. Paper presented at: Crop Protection in Northern Britain 2012 Conference Proceedings (Dundee).
  • Newton, A.C., Torrance, L., Holden, N., Toth, I.K., Cooke, D.E.L., Blok, V., and Gilroy, E.M. 2012. Chapter Three – Climate change and defense against pathogens in plants. In Advances in Applied Microbiology, M.G. Geoffrey, and S. Sima, eds. (Academic Press), pp. 89-132.
  • Holden, N.J. 2010. Plants as reservoirs for human enteric pathogens. CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources 5, 11 pp.
  • Holden, N., Pritchard, L., and Toth, I. 2009. Colonization outwith the colon: plants as an alternative environmental reservoir for human pathogenic enterobacteria. FEMS Microbiological Reviews 33, 689-703.
  • Holden, N., Totsika, M., Dixon, L., Catherwood, K., and Gally, D.L. 2007. Regulation of P-fimbrial phase variation frequencies in Escherichia coli CFT073. Infection and Immunity 75, 3325-3334.
  • Holden, N., Blomfield, I.C., Uhlin, B.-E., Totsika, M., Kulasekara, D.H., and Gally, D.L. 2007. Comparative analysis of FimB and FimE recombinase activity. Microbiology 153, 4138-4149.
  • Low, A.S., Holden, N., Rosser, T., Roe, A.J., Constantinidou, C., Hobman, J.L., Smith, D.G., Low, J.C., and Gally, D.L. 2006. Analysis of fimbrial gene clusters and their expression in enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7. Environmental Microbiology 8, 1033-1047.