Kevin Mercurio is enrolled in his first year of the University of Ottawa’s M.Sc. Program in Biochemistry under the supervision of Prof. Kristin Baetz and Prof. Alain Stintzi. He obtained a B.Sc. in Biochemistry with honors at the University of Ottawa in 2016.
Metagenomics research on the human gut microbiota has shifted from solely identifying the bacterial composition to also identifying the fungal composition. These microbial interactions can help researchers understand the dynamics of the gut environment, particularly in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs). One fungus that may play an important role in IBD pathogenesis is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a common yeast in our environment and food. However, it remains unknown if yeast detected in metagenomics studies are a reflection of dead yeast or if S. cerevisiae has the ability to live within the human gut. To begin answering this question, he is using clinical samples from the mucosal-luminal interface (MLI) to enrich for fungi and testing whether any colonies are S. cerevisiae using PCR methods. Additionally, other fungi that live within the mucus layer of the gastrointestinal tract can metabolize large mucin glycoproteins. Through classical growth assays, transcriptomics analysis and chemical genomics tools, his project seeks to identify whether S. cerevisiae has the ability to live within the physiological conditions of the human gut and how the organism withstands these conditions. Importantly, his work will establish if S. cerevisiae can colonize the human gut and whether one of our most common dietary fungi has the potential to impact human gut health.
- Increase understanding of utilizing yeast as a model organism
- Utilize robust analytical techniques in systems biology
- Develop communication skills to present science to a general audience
- Acquire essential skills for competing in the biotechnology job market