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Heather Feaga

Assistant Professor

Heather Feaga earned her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Microbiology from the Pennsylvania State University. Her dissertation work focused on mechanisms of ribosome rescue in bacteria and human mitochondria. She conducted postdoctoral research at Columbia University and taught Microbiology at City University of New York/BMCC.

Selected publications

  • Feaga HA, Kopylov M, Kim JK, Jovanovic M, Dworkin J. Ribosome dimerization protects the small subunit. Accepted at Journal of Bacteriology. doi: 10.1128/JB.00009-20. 2020
  • Feaga HA, Dworkin J. A wolf in sheep’s clothing: chromosomal pathogenicity islands co-opt phage capsids to facilitate horizontal spread. Molecular Cell (preview). 5;75(5):889-890. 2019
  • Peterson ND, Dillion NA, Feaga HA, Keiler KC, Baughn AD. Anti-tubercular Activity of Pyrazinamide is Independent of trans-Translation. Scientific Reports. 2017
  • Feaga HA, Quickel MD, Hankey-Giblin PA, Keiler KC. Human cells require nonstop ribosome rescue activity in mitochondria. PLoS Genetics. 12(3):e1005964. 2016
  • Feaga HA, Viollier PH, Keiler KC. Release of nonstop complexes is essential. mBio. 5:e01916-14. doi:10.1128/mBio.01916-14. 2014
  • Keiler KC, Feaga HA. Resolving nonstop translation complexes is a matter of life or death. Journal of Bacteriology. 196:1–9. 2014
  • Weyrich LS, Feaga HA, Park J, Muse SJ, Safi CY, Rolin OY, Young SE, Harvill ET. Resident microbiota affects Bordetella pertussis infectious dose and host specificity. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 209(6):913-21. 2014
  • Feaga HA, Maduka RC, Foster MN, Szalai VA. Affinity of Cu+ for the copper-binding domain of the amyloid-β peptide of Alzheimer's disease. Inorganic Chemistry. 50(5):1614-8. 2011

Research Focus

Ribosomes translate mRNA at a rate of about 45 nucleotides per second. A multitude of protein factors work in concert with the ribosome to keep it running smoothly. Some of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics target the bacterial ribosome; drugs are available that target every step of protein synthesis, from initiation to ribosome recycling and rescue.

Our lab is focused on ribosome quality control in bacteria. We aim to identify factors that interact with the ribosome and prevent stalling, and to understand the impact of ribosome stalling on cell physiology. In particular, we are interested in how the cell senses and responds to translation stress during complex developmental processes, such as sporulation and germination.

We use the model spore-former Bacillus subtilis, a genetically tractable, non-pathogenic soil microbe. Using genetics, biochemistry, and ribosome profiling, we will characterize global patterns of translation control during spore development. We will then extend these findings to pathogenic organisms such as Bacillus anthracis. These studies will be conducted with an eye towards identifying new antibiotic targets.