The Pires laboratory studies aspects related to bacterial cell surfaces and interactions at the interface between bacterial pathogens and their hosts. The bacterial cell wall has proven to be a rich source of antibiotics in drug discovery. However, there are fundamental aspects of bacterial cell wall assembly and its interaction with the host organism that are yet to be fully elucidated. The Pires lab uses synthetic chemistry as a platform to construct cell wall analogs that metabolically label live bacteria and mimic key aspects of cell wall architecture.

Through this work, the interrogation of cell wall remodeling and processing in pathogenic bacteria will guide the design of next-generation antibiotics that circumvent resistance mechanisms. Furthermore, the development of probes to systematically characterize cell wall sensing and host distribution will add fundamental knowledge to bacterial pathogenesis and human microbiome maintenance. The Pires lab focuses on: (1) the contribution of individual enzymes to the overall drug resistant phenotype in response to antibiotics in live bacterial cells, (2) key interactions by bacterial membrane-anchored proteins to lipid II (the bottle-neck point of cell wall biosynthesis) and (3) the molecular recognition of cell wall by cell wall membrane receptors on human immune cells.