Kathryn Brink studies how bacteria use two-component systems (TCSs) to sense and adapt to changes in their environment. Her earlier work focused on discovering the inputs of TCSs of unknown function and developing engineered bacteria that can use those TCSs to diagnose disease.
Peptide-sensing TCSs play an important role in host-pathogen and microbe-microbe interactions. Kathryn is currently developing a method to characterize peptide-TCS interactions in high throughput. Through this work, she has identified human antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) that can activate PhoPQ, a virulence-regulating TCS from Salmonella Typhimurium and related pathogens.