School of Dental Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Nicholas Jakubovics

Senior Lecturer

Background

Introduction

After a BSc in Biochemistry from the University of Cambridge (1994) and a PhD in Microbiology at the University of Warwick (1998), I moved into the field of Oral Microbiology as a Post-Doctoral researcher in Prof. Howard Jenkinson's group at the Bristol Dental School. I spent 6 years at Bristol working on adhesion, colonisation and sensing mechanisms of oral streptococci before joining Dr Paul Kolenbrander's lab at the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research in Bethesda, MD, USA on an NIH Post-Doctoral Fellowship. The focus of my research centred on cell-cell interactions in oral biofilms.

I joined Newcastle Dental School as Lecturer in Oral Microbiology in 2007 and became Senior Lecturer in 2014. My current research is still focussed on adhesion, colonisation and cell-cell interactions, primarily in oral biofilms. Our group employs techniques from molecular genetics to microbiome profiling to understand how oral biofilms form and to investigate the impact of different treatments. We also have a number of projects on health-related biofilms at sites outside the mouth, including prosthetic joint and middle ear infections. The overall goal of our research is to find new approaches to control biofilms and to translate these into products that can improve oral and general health.

Roles and Responsibilities

Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Dental Research

Editorial Board member of Molecular Oral Microbiology, Journal of Oral Microbiology, Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology

Translational Oral Biosciences Lead (Dental Sciences)

Biological and GM Safety Supervisor (Dental Sciences) and Member of University Biosafety Committee

Areas of expertise

Translational oral microbiology, Microbial biofilms, Streptococcal genetics

Qualifications

1994 BSc in Biochemistry (Cambridge)
1998 PhD in Microbiology (Warwick)

Previous Positions

1998-2004 Post-Doctoral researcher, Bristol Dental School
2004-2007 Post-Doctoral Fellow, NIDCR, Bethesda, MD, USA

Memberships

Society for Applied Microbiology (http://www.sfam.org.uk/)

Microbiology Society UK

International Association for Dental Research


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Research

For more information about my research group, please visit my blog at: https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/nickjakubovics 


Research Interests

Molecular mechanisms of adhesion and colonisation by oral streptococci.
Bacterial biofilm formation, and the structure of biofilm matrices.
Interactions and communication between bacteria in mixed-species biofilms.
The formation of biofilms on dental materials.

I have edited a book on Oral Microbial Ecology, published in 2013 (http://www.horizonpress.com/oral-ecology)

Current Work

Dental caries and periodontitis (gum disease) are the leading causes of tooth loss in the Western World. Both of these diseases originate from dental plaque, a complex mixture of numerous different bacteria that accumulates on tooth surfaces between cleaning procedures. Detailed molecular studies of bacterial virulence factors require pure cultures of isolated strains, and therefore most of these studies have been conducted on bacteria in monoculture. However, it is becoming clear that bacteria adapt very rapidly to their surroundings and that they alter their make-up upon contact with other bacterial species or with a human host. My research group aims to identify changes that occur when one bacterial species interacts with another or with human tissues.

We are also interested in the structure of mixed-species biofilms, and in particular the nature of the extracellular matrix that surrounds bacterial cells and protects them from antimicrobial agents. We have shown that extracellular DNA is an important component of microbial biofilms such as dental plaque. We are developing enzymes to control biofilms by degrading the DNA. This work is focussed on a range of biofilms in the mouth and in the head and neck region as a whole, including biofilms that form on artificial speech valves, in the paranasal sinuses (causing chronic rhinosinusitis) and in the middle ear (causing glue ear).

Biofilm formation on artificial surfaces that are placed in the body is particularly problematic since, unlike our own tissues, the artificial surfaces do not contain protective mechanisms to limit microbial colonisation. Work in my lab is aimed towards understanding how micro-organisms interact with different surfaces such as acrylic materials used for prosthodontics, with a view to providing more effective measures for reducing microbial contamination.

Future Research

Future work will continue to be directed towards understanding the molecular mechanisms of bacterial cell-cell interactions and biofilm formation. The development of new agents for disrupting biofilm matrices is a high priority.

Postgraduate Supervision

Lead supervisor for 1 PhD student and 1 MPhil student; Co-supervisor for 7 PhD and 1 MD student.

Funding

Our research has received funding from a range of sources including UK Research Councils, Professional Societies (Society for Applied Microbiology, Microbiology Society UK, International Association for Dental Research), industry and the Dunhill Medical Trust.

Teaching

Undergraduate Teaching

Stage 1 BDS Cell Biology

Stage 2 BDS Microbiology for Dentistry

Stage 5 BDS Current Opinion

I supervise undergraduate student laboratory projects from Biomedical Sciences and I regularly supervise summer student projects in the lab.

Postgraduate Teaching

I teach on the MSc Human Health Microbiome module, parts of the MRes programme and on the MClinDent course in the School of Dental Sciences.

Publications