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Presentation Time: 9:50-10:10
Home University: UNC-Chapel Hill
Research Mentor: Leslie Hicks, UNC Chemistry
Program: SURF
Research Title: Prediction and discovery of small open reading frame encoded polypeptides from Enterococcus faecalis

Recent multi-omic efforts have facilitated the discovery of unannotated small open reading frame encoded polypeptides (SEPs). SEPs are small proteins (< 50 amino acids in length) representing an underexplored class of biomolecules due to the lack of genome prediction software and challenges in identification. However, increasing evidence demonstrates that SEPs play critical roles in cellular processes and serve diverse microbiological functions. Some known SEPs exhibit functions such as promoting pathogenesis, stabilizing protein complexes, and containing antimicrobial properties. Enterococcus faecalis is a ubiquitous member of healthy human gut microbiota with duality as a probiotic commensal as well as an opportunistic pathogen. The absence of pathogen-specific genes or pathogen-specific features suggests that E. faecalis’s virulence is determined by the host-microbe interaction. To this end, we hypothesize that the expression of various SEPs associate with E. faecalis’ transition from a commensal to pathogenic in changing environments. Herein, a six-frame genome translation and smORFinder were used for creating a predicted E. faecalis SEP database. In vivo translation of predicted SEPs is pursued via mass spectrometry.