Prof. Mike Peck
WebsiteFood Safety Centre
My research interests are in the basic and strategic aspects of the physiology and molecular biology of Clostridium botulinum (and other foodborne pathogens), and applying research findings, including developments in mathematical biology, such as risk assessment to issues faced by industry and regulators.
The type F6 neurotoxin gene cluster locus of Group II Clostridium botulinum has evolved by successive disruption of two different ancestral precursors
Genome Biology and Evolution 5 (5) p1032-1037
Publisher’s version: 10.1093/gbe/evt068
Functional Characterisation of Germinant Receptors in Clostridium botulinum and Clostridium sporogenes Presents Novel Insights into Spore Germination Systems.
PLoS Pathogens 10 (9) pe1004382
Publisher’s version: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004382
Three classes of plasmid (47-63 kb) carry the type B neurotoxin gene cluster of Group II Clostridium botulinum
Genome Biology and Evolution 6 p2076-2087
Publisher’s version: 10.1093/gbe/evu164
International Journal of Food Microbiology 166 (1) p72-76
Applications are now open for 4 year PhD studentships at the Institute of Food Research, to start in October 2015.more +
IFR scientists have discovered genes that are crucial for germination in the foodborne bacteria Clostridium botulinum.more +
A recent study led by IFR has uncovered newinformation about the genes Clostridium botulinum uses to produce its toxin.more +
Scientists at the Institute of Food Research are helping in the expansion and diversification of mushroom cultivation in Uganda.more +
The Global Food Security Programme has published a report identifying the main research priorities needed to address the problems of food waste.more +
C.botulinum is a dangerous foodborne pathogen responsible for botulism, while C.sporogenes is a major cause of food spoilage. Both form heat-resistant spores that persist in the environment, and under favourable conditions germinate to form vegetative cells.
Improved control of these clostridia requires better understanding of spore germination mechanisms. Spore germination is initiated following the recognition of germinants by specific germinant receptors (GRs).
We recently completed the first functional characterisation of spore GRs in C.botulinum and C.sporogenes (Brunt et al., 2014; PLoS Pathogens).
This work precisely defined GRs and their germinants to provide novel insights into germination. Amino acid stimulated germination required two tricistronic GRs in C.botulinum (acting in synergy, not alone), and one tricistronic GR in C. sporogenes (two other GRs contributing to the germination rate). This is the first time the mechanisms have been elucidated by which these clostridial spores, critical in food safety/food security, germinate and provides an important foundation in understanding emergence from lag phase.
Importantly, we also showed that strain to strain variation in germination phenotype is governed by prior sporulation conditions. In this project, we will build on these intriguing findings and test the hypothesis that the germination phenotype is determined by the number and type of GRs present in the spore, and that this is governed by sporulation conditions and strain.
Suitable training will be provided in molecular microbiology (e.g. genomics, deep RNA sequencing, quantitative PCR), targeted quantitative proteomics, and clostridial microbiology, and thus provide the student with skills sought after in academia, industry, health care and government.