Postdoctoral training: Yale University, Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Ph.D.: Université de Sherbrooke (Québec, Canada), Biochemistry

B.Sc. : Université de Sherbrooke (Québec, Canada), Microbiology


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Regulation of Salmonella stress response and virulence

Infections with non-typhoidal Salmonella still represent a global health burden, causing 93.8 million cases of gastroenteritis and 155,000 deaths in the world each year. Of particular concern is the rise of infections with antibiotic-resistant serotypes, that are now estimated to 212,500 cases and 70 deaths per year in the United States, and the expansion of invasive strains responsible for more than 681,000 deaths in the world yearly. Therefore, there is an urgent need to better understand the basics of Salmonella pathogenesis in order to identify new targets for drug development.  

The ability of Salmonella to cause disease largely depends on mounting the appropriate response to stresses encountered both outside and inside the host in order for the bacteria to adapt to these insults. My group seeks answers to fundamental bacterial physiology and pathogenesis questions with the aim of better understanding how Salmonella, and other pathogens, regulate and fine-tune the activity of their stress response and virulence pathways to cause disease. We combine microbial genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry and cell biology approaches to identify novel regulatory mechanisms impacting the ability of Salmonella enterica to adapt to environmental insults and successfully establish and maintain host infection. We are particularly interested in signal transduction pathways and how their activity and regulons are regulated by small proteins and regulatory RNAs to benefit Salmonella in responding to changing environments.   

Riboswitch ligands biology in pathogens

Riboswitches are cis-acting regulatory elements found in the 5′-untranslated region of messenger RNAs, where they sense metabolites and regulate gene expression. While most riboswitches characterized to date recognize compounds with well-established biological function (e.g. amino acids, RNA precursors, sugars, cofactors and others), some widespread riboswitch classes bind ligands whose physiological relevance still remains elusive. Using Salmonella enterica as model organism, we aim to elucidate the role these compounds play in bacterial lifestyle and to uncover novel stress response pathways maintaining their homeostasis.


  • Bacterial virulence
  • Stress response
  • Signal transduction
  • Gene regulation
  • Small regulatory RNAs
  • Riboswitches
  • Small proteins


Salvail H, Balaji A, Roth A and Breaker RR. A spermidine riboswitch class in bacteria exploits a close variant of an aptamer for the enzyme cofactor S-adenosylmethionine. Cell Reports. 2023. 42(12):113571. 

Salvail H and Breaker RR. Riboswitches. Curr Biol.2023. (9):R343-R348.

Salvail H, Choi J, Groisman EA. Differential synthesis of novel small protein times Salmonella virulence program. PLoS Genet.2022.18(3):e1010074.

Choi J, Salvail H, Groisman EA. RNA chaperone activates Salmonella virulence program during infection.Nucleic Acids Res.2021. Nov 9;gkab992. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkab992.

Salvail H*, Balaji A*,Yu D, Roth A and Breaker RR. Biochemical Validation of a Fourth Guanidine Riboswitch Class in Bacteria. Biochemistry.2020. 59(49):4654-4662. (*Shared authorship)

Salvail H and Groisman EA. The phosphorelay BarA/SirA activates the non-cognate regulator RcsB in Salmonella enterica. PLoS Genet. 2020. 11;16(5):e1008722

Salvail H, Caron MP, Bélanger J and Massé E. Antagonistic functions between the RNA chaperone Hfq and an sRNA regulate sensitivity to the antibiotic colicin. EMBO J.2013. 32(20):2764-78.

Salvail H and Massé E. Regulating iron storage and metabolism with RNA: an overview of posttranscriptional controls of intracellular iron homeostasis. Wiley Interdiscip Rev RNA. 2012. 3(1):26-36.

Salvail H, Lanthier-Bourbonnais P, Sobota JM, Caza M, Benjamin JA, Mendieta ME, Lépine F, Dozois CM, Imlay J, Massé E. A small RNA promotes siderophore production through transcriptional and metabolic remodeling. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2010. 107(34):15223-8.

Benjamin JA*, Desnoyers G*, Morissette A*, Salvail H* and Massé E. Dealing with oxidative stress and iron starvation in microoganisms: an overview. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2010 Mar;88(3):264-72. (*Shared authorship)

Prévost K, Salvail H, Desnoyers G, Jacques JF, Phaneuf E, Massé E. The small RNA RyhB activates the translation of shiA mRNA encoding a permease of shikimate, a compound involved in siderophore synthesis. Mol Microbiol. 2007. Jun; 64(5):1260-73.

Massé E, Salvail H, Desnoyers G, Arguin M. Small RNAs controlling iron metabolism. Curr Opin Microbiol. 2007 Apr;10(2):140-5.

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