Meriem El Karoui


September 2018-present    Director of Equality Diversity and Inclusion for the School

January 2018-present    Director of SynthSys, The University of Edinburgh Centre for Synthetic and Systems Biology

September 2014-present    Chair for Equality and Diversity

2013-present    Chancellor Fellow and Reader, University of Edinburgh

2009-2012    Visiting Scientist, Systems Biology Department, Harvard Medical School. Boston, USA

2010-present    Director of Research, INRA. France

2005-2009    Group leader (bacterial genomes architecture). INRA. France

2001-2003    Junior research scientist. Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA).France

1999-2001    Post-doctoral fellow. Pr. Jeffrey Errington's laboratory, University of Oxford. UK

1998    PhD Microbiology. University Paris VII. France

Research summary

A population of cells growing in an identical environment can display substantial phenotypic heterogeneity between individuals. It has been shown that even genetically identical cells behave differently because many central biological processes involve molecules present in small numbers. The inherent randomness of chemical reactions in these concentration regimes generates spontaneous fluctuations that can enslave all dependent processes.

Some key proteins involved in DNA repair, replication control and cell division in bacteria are present at low levels and are therefore likely subject to significant fluctuations. While fluctuations in gene expression are transient by nature, cell to cell variability in central DNA metabolism might have a direct impact on the evolution of microbes. Indeed, fluctuations in DNA repair mechanisms can modify mutation rates, acting as a generating force of genetic diversity. Work in our laboratory aims to explore the contribution of molecular stochasticity to genetic variability in bacteria. We combine single molecule microscopy, microfluidics, genetics and modeling to address this question. We expect that connecting phenotypic variability caused by the stochastic nature of chemical reactions with genetic variability will shed new light on the dynamics of bacterial genomes evolution.

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