Professor Ulrike Kappler

Professor

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences
Faculty of Science
u.kappler1@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 52978

Overview

Associate Professor Kappler (ORCiD: 0000-0002-2642-1319) is Group Leader in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences at UQ, and Chair of the Metals in Biology group. She held an ARC Australian Fellowship (2008-12) and has proven expertise in managing research projects funded by ARC & NHMRC project grants (>$2.5 million) as well as funding from other agencies. A/Prof. Kappler has > 20 years experience in bacterial physiology and the investigation of enzyme function and metabolic pathways in a wide variety of bacteria, with a particular focus on bacterial sulfur metabolism. Over the past ~10 years she has developed an extensive program of research on the physiology and pathogenesis of the human respiratory pathogen Haemophilus influenzae. Her laboratory is investigating the role of H. influenzae metabolism for host-pathogen interactions, as well as molecular defences against antimicrobials produced by the human immune system (publications: Front. Microbiol., 2015, 2016, 2021, Res. Microbiol. 2018, Adv. Microb. Physiol. 2019, 2xACS Infect. Dis. 2020) Her research has contributed to the development of a novel model of H. influenzae infection that is based on primary human nasal cells differentiated at Air-Liquid Interface.

A/ Prof. Kappler is regularly invited to present her work at international conferences (GRCs, MoTec, EMBO Microbial Sulfur Metabolism, Biometals), and has extensive expertise in the successful supervision of research students and has graduated 10 PhD, 24 Masters and 28 Honors students. She has been the Chair of the UQ Institutional Biosafety Subcommittee (2018-2021), and is the current Chair of the Australian Society for Microbiology (ASM) Queensland branch committee and a member of the ASM national council.

Research Interests

  • Resistance of bacterial pathogens to reactive chlorine and sulfur compounds
    Haemophilus influenzae is completely adapted too the human respiratory tract which is its only known niche. This bacterium is able to withstand high concentrations of antimicrobial compounds generated by the innate immune system, such as hypochlorite (bleach) and its derivative, N-Chlorotaurine. The mechanisms of this resistance are currently not well documented and H. influenzae genomes do not encode known regulators of responses to hypochlorite stress. This project aims to understand the type of cellular damage caused by reactive chlorine species but also naturally occurring antimicrobial sulfur compounds such as allicin, and to identify proteins and enzymes that are required for H. influenzae survival in the presence of these antimicrobial reagents. A further target is the pathway of signal transduction and the nature of the molecular signal that activates the Cl- and C- stress protective responses in H. influenzae First results indicate the involvement of a number of periplasmic enzymes with links to the H. influenzae respiratory chain as key elements in resistance to reactive chlorine species, and we recently identified a novel type of hypochlorite responsive regulator.
  • You are what you eat - the function of metabolic specialization colonization of host organisms
    Being able to acquire nutrients and generate energy are essential processes for bacterial pathogens during infection. However, in many cases, including Haemophilus influenzae, the exact types of nutrients that are accessed by the bacteria during infection and more particularly, how access to specific carbon sources can affect infection duration and the ability of bacteria to colonize a host organism is not well understood. We have shown that the H. influenzae nutrient profile shows specific adaptations to the human respiratory tract, and will now investigate how the different classes of preferred nutrients affect virulence. The final aim of this work is to understand the H.influenzae metabolic network, and identify enzymes and substrates that are essential for infections in humans.
  • Metalloenzymes and bacterial pathogenesis
    Metalloenzymes are involved in key energy-generating processes in living cells, and they contribute significantly to the adaptation of microorganisms to different environmental conditions. This project investigates how respiratory enzymes can aid pathogens in colonizing specific niches in the host and how these enzymes might be exploited as future drug targets.
  • Bacterial sulfur compound oxidation
    Energy generation from inorganic compounds, including inorganic forms of sulfur, is one of the special properties of certain bacteria. This process contributes significantly to the biogeochemical sulfur cycle, to the bioavailability of sulfur for plant growth in soils and to the detoxification of various volatile sulfur compounds, some of which are known to be climate active. We are interesting in investigating the metabolic pathways and enzymes involved in these processes, as well as their regulation in response to changing environmental conditions
  • Sulfite oxidizing enzymes - what makes them indispensable for living cells?
    Sulfite oxidizing enzymes are found in almost all types of living cells, and especially bacteria are known to harbour a great variety of these enzymes. However, it is unknown what the metabolic role of sulfite oxidation is. We are investigating the diversity of these enzymes, the reactions catalyzed by the three structurally distinct known types of these enzymes with a view to uncovering the role of these evolutionarily old enzymes for cellular function.

Qualifications

  • Journal Editorial Board Member, Frontiers in Microbiology, Metabolism and Physiology, Frontiers in Microbiology, Metabolism and Physiology
  • Fellow, Australian Society for Microbiology, Australian Society for Microbiology
  • Member, American Society for Microbiology, American Society for Microbiology
  • Member, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (US), American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (US)
  • Graduate Certificate in Higher Education, The University of Queensland
  • Doctor of Philosophy of Microbiology, University of Bonn
  • Masters (Research) of Biology, University of Bonn

Publications

View all Publications

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • This project will investigate the effects of hypochlorite, N-Chlorotaurine and hypothiocyanous acid (HOSCN) on the virulence of bacterial pathogens. It will include investiagtions of mechanisms of signal transduction, as well as identification of enzymes essential for stress resistance.

    Several projects are possible in this area.

  • This project will investigate the production of small molecules that can alter innate immune responses and gene expression patterns in host cells ('immunometabolites') by bacterial pathogens as a way to increase their survival during infection.

  • are always available along the lines of the major research topics in my group. please enquire by e-mail if there is anything that you are interested in.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book Chapter

  • West, J., Veenstra, A., Kappler, U., Pedwell, R., Cheung, S., O'Sullivan, L. and Rowland, S. (2019). Chapter 3: implementing an ALURE. Engaging undergraduate students in authentic science research: a large-scale approach. (pp. 15-22) edited by Susan Rowland, Gwendolyn Lawrie and Rhianna Pedwell. Hammondville, NSW Australia: Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia.

  • Kappler, Ulrike and Schwarz, Guenter (2017). The sulfite oxidase family of molybdenum enzymes. Molybdenum and tungsten enzymes: biochemistry. (pp. 240-273) edited by Russ Hille, Carola Schulzke and Martin L. Kirk. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Royal Society of Chemistry. doi: 10.1039/9781782623915-00240

  • Kappler, Ulrike and Schäfer, Hendrik (2014). Transformations of dimethylsulfide. The Metal-Driven Biogeochemistry of Gaseous Compounds in the Environment. (pp. 279-313) edited by Peter M.H. Kroneck and Martha E. Sosa Torres. Hoboken, NJ, United States: John Wiley and Sons . doi: 10.1007/978-94-017-9269-1_11

  • Kappler, U. (2008). Bacterial Sulfite-Oxidizing Enzymes - enzymes for Chemolithotrophs Only?. Microbial Sulfur Metabolism. (pp. 151-166) edited by Dahl, C. and Friedrich, C.. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

  • Hurse, T. J., Kappler, U. and Keller, J. (2008). Using anoxygenic photosynthetic bacteria for the removal of sulfide from wastewater. Sulfur Metabolism in Phototrophic Organisms. (pp. 437-460) edited by Hell, R., Dahl, C., Knaff, D. and Leustek, T.. The Netherlands: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4020-6863-8_22

  • McEwan, A. G., Kappler, U. and Mc Devitt, C. (2004). Microbial molybdenum-containing enzymes in respiration: Structural and functional aspects. Respiration in Archaea and Bacteria. (pp. 176-202) edited by D. Zannoni. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer.

  • Kappler, Ulrike and Maher, Megan J. (2004). SoxAX Cytochromes. Encyclopedia of Inorganic and Bioinorganic Chemistry. (pp. 1-11) Chichester, United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons. doi: 10.1002/9781119951438.eibc2169

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • This project will investigate the effects of hypochlorite, N-Chlorotaurine and hypothiocyanous acid (HOSCN) on the virulence of bacterial pathogens. It will include investiagtions of mechanisms of signal transduction, as well as identification of enzymes essential for stress resistance.

    Several projects are possible in this area.

  • This project will investigate the production of small molecules that can alter innate immune responses and gene expression patterns in host cells ('immunometabolites') by bacterial pathogens as a way to increase their survival during infection.

  • are always available along the lines of the major research topics in my group. please enquire by e-mail if there is anything that you are interested in.