Dr. Peter Belenky Superfund Research Program Seminar

The Superfund Research Program will be hosting the following upcoming seminar:

Stress Induced Horizontal Gene Transfer in the Lab and the Environment

presented by Dr. Peter Belenky

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Barus & Holley, room 190

Antimicrobial resistance is a clear and present threat impacting medical practice worldwide. Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistance in patients and the environment. Evidence suggests that bacterial stress responses induce processes that contribute to HGT.  Our group explores how exposure to external stressors including antibiotics and other toxins contribute to accelerated HGT in isolated microbes and microbial populations. We propose that DNA damage resulting from these stressors can actually increase the frequency of resistance gene transfer through conjugation and transduction. This process utilizes the induction of the SOS response and specifically the RecA gene. Since RecA is involved in both DNA repair and HGT, its induction by external stressors directly contributes to HGT. Here, we demonstrate that DNA-damaging agents can alter the rates of natural transformation in Vibrio cholerae and Bacillus subtilis while exploring the mechanisms by which these changes occur. In addition to antibiotics, multiple environmental contaminants including heavy metals have been shown to induce RecA. Thus the transfer of antibiotic resistance and virulence genes in terrestrial and aquatic microbial communities could be induced by exposure to environmental contaminants. In the future we aim to conduct a metagenomic analysis of “at risk” microbial communities to determine if environmental exposure contributes to the presence of mobile genetic elements as well as virulence and resistance genes.

Dr. Peter Belenky was a double major in studio art and biochemistry at Brandeis University and went on to earn his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Dartmouth Medical School. Dr. Belenky was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute postdoctoral associate at Boston University and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. Dr. Belenky joined the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Brown University in 2014 where he studies the stress responses of microbial communities and isolated microbes to antimicrobial agents.

Rachel Morello-Frosch Lecture

We are welcoming Rachel Morello-Frosch, PhD, MPH (Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health) for a seminar on Friday, May 5, 9:00 – 10:00 A.M., Alpert Medical School, Room 270. Dr. Morello-Frosch will be discussing The Science of Cumulative Impacts: Implications for Community Environmental Health and Regulatory Decision-Making.

We hope you can join us!

Rachel Morello-Frosch Flyer

Superfund Research Program Seminar – Organofluorine Chemicals: Commercial Applications and Human Exposure

Please join us for our final 2016-2017 Superfund Research Program Seminar on Friday, April 28, 2017, 12:00 – 1:00 in Barus & Holley room 190.  Jessica D’eon, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto, will be discussing Organofluorine Chemicals: Commercial Applications and Human Exposure.


Organohalogens continue to dominate the persistent organic pollutants of regulatory concern.  In this talk I will discuss the role halogens play in commercial materials with an emphasis on fluorine.  Building on this framework I will discuss the puzzle of human fluorochemical contamination.  Determining the source of human exposure is complicated as the perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) typically measured in human sera are not the fluorosurfactants and polymers used commercially.  One approach to addressing this question is to scrutinize trends in human sera in the context of commercial activities.  This tactic is possible because fluorochemicals have been produced via two manufacturing processes, electrochemical fluorination (ECF) and telomerization, each with a distinct production history.  Temporal trends in human sera, together with isomer and congener profiles, all indicate some exposure to commercial materials or their building blocks followed by metabolism into the fluorinated acids that are observed in the body.  Understanding the connection between human contamination and current-use commercial materials is crucial for effective regulation.  It is also toxicologically relevant as certain biotransformation pathways produce reactive intermediates with demonstrated abilities to form protein adducts.

Robert Hurt to give invited talk at Gordon Research Conference on Environmental Nanotechnology

Robert Hurt, Director of the Brown Superfund Research Program, will be giving an invited talk at the Gordon Research Conference on Environmental Nanotechnology in Stowe, Vermont, June 18-23, 2017. The theme of the conference is The Next Generation of Nanotechnology: Materials, Applications, and Implications and talk is entitled:Back to Nature – Environmental Transformations of Nanomaterials and Their Implications for Risk”.

For more information on the meeting or to register, please visit: https://www.grc.org/programs.aspx?id=14915

Brown SRP paper wins award at SOT Meeting

A 2016 Brown University SRP paper, From the Cover: Sperm Molecular Biomarkers Are Sensitive Indicators of Testicular Injury following Subchronic Model Toxicant Exposure, won the Best Paper award for the Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology Specialty Section at the 2017 Society of Toxicology 56th Annual Meeting. The authors are Edward Dere, Shelby Wilson, Linnea Anderson, and Kim Boekelheide.

The paper can be found at: https://academic.oup.com/toxsci/article/153/2/327/2579194/From-the-Cover-Sperm-Molecular-Biomarkers-Are.

Brown SRP Trainee Jennifer Guelfo spoke at ITRC Annual Meeting

Dr. Jennifer Guelfo, State Agency Liaison Postdoctoral Fellow, gave a talk entitled “Per AND Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) in Groundwater: An Overview of Fate and Transport” at the annual meeting of the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC), which took place March 27-30, 2017 in New Orleans, LA.

Dr. Guelfo is also a member of the recently initiated ITRC PFAS Team, which will work on research translation and technology transfer materials in six main areas: (1) History and Use of Environmental Sources, (2) Nomenclature Overview and Physicochemical Properties, (3) Fate and Transport, (4) Site Characterization Tools, Sampling Techniques, and Laboratory Analytical Methods, (5) Remediation Technologies and Methods, and (6) Regulatory Summary.  Dr. Guelfo will be contributing to the effort to write and review these fact sheets.

For more information, please see: http://www.itrcweb.org/Meetings/Upcoming.