Marco Gontijo recently received the ASM Microbe 2023 Outstanding Student Poster Award . The award is given to one student in each of the eight core scientific tracks* of ASM Microbe 2023. Marco is the winner for the Molecular Biology and Physiology track.
Marco's presentation, "Leveraging in silico structure prediction to discover cell wall–binding domains (CBDs) in SAR-endolysins," was a follow-up on his Master’s work at the University of Campinas in Brazil. The study premise was that sequence homology is not always sufficient to annotate protein domains. To overcome this limitation, Marco leveraged the rise of in silico protein structure prediction to annotate structural homologs.
Marco is a rising second-year Ph.D. graduate student whose research focuses on host-pathogen genetic interactions driving tuberculosis disease outcomes.
Marco studied alternative strategies to fight foodborne diseases while pursuing his BS in Food Science and Engineering at the Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil. In his third year, he traveled to Nancy, France, to work at Biomolecular Engineering Laboratory (LIBio) under Dr. Frédéric Borges. There, he studied the antimicrobial potential of bacteriocins produced by lactic acid bacteria, research he continued in Brazil in his senior year. During his Master's, he continued the exploration of antimicrobial proteins and peptides against multidrug-resistant bacteria under Dr. Marcelo Brocchi, which he presented during ASM Microbe 2023.
In the Smith Lab, Marco's primary project seeks to determine the mechanisms underlying IFN-γ-independent immunity to M. tuberculosis in CAST/EiJ mice, with the ultimate goal of understanding how and why some individuals are highly exposed to M. tuberculosis but test negative by tuberculin skin test (TST) and interferon-γ (IFN-γ) release assay (IGRA), and "resist" the development of classic tuberculosis infection. In addition to his primary project, Marco's other projects aim to determine the requirement of bacterial cell wall lipids for virulence in genetically diverse hosts. Leveraging Collaborative Cross mouse data, he mapped genetic loci linked to the differential requirement of bacterial cell wall lipids in genetically diverse hosts, which would improve our understanding of how bacteria exploit differential virulence factors in vivo.
*ASM Microbe 2023 core scientific tracks: Antimicrobial Agents and Resistance; Applied and Environmental Science; Clinical Infections and Vaccines; Clinical and Public Health Microbiology; Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity; Host-Microbe Biology; Molecular Biology and Physiology; and Profession of Microbiology