Scanning electron micrograph of a coculture
of Bdellovibriobacteriovorus and E. coli.

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Welcome to the Koval Lab

Dr. Susan Koval (BSc Waterloo; MSc Western Ontario; PhD London)
Associate Professor

Office: Dental Sciences Building , Room 3013A

Phone: (519) 661-3439

Fax: 519 661-3499


Research in our lab is focussed on a group of predatory prokaryotes, Bdellovibrio-and-like organisms (BALOs). These microorganisms are important components in the control of Gram-negative bacterial populations (both free-living and pathogenic species) in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.  BALOs are one of only a few prokaryotes with a developmental life cycle.  This life cycle alternates between an extracellular, flagellated, nongrowing phase (the attack phase) and an intracellular, periplasmic phase in the prey cell after the formation of an osmotically stable body termed the bdelloplast (the growth phase).  In the growth phase, the predator hydrolyses for nutrients the cytoplasmic macromolecules of the prey cell, and grows into a single, elongating, spiral cell with unseptated cytoplasm.  Upon some unknown signal, multiple septa are formed simultaneously and progeny cells formed.  Synthesis of the single, polar sheathed flagellum begins and continues after the progeny cells are released from the bdelloplast.  It is important to note that DNA replication occurs only in the growth phase.  Thus BALOs are obligate predators.

Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus was first described in 1963 by Stolp and Starr.  To date, there are four recognized genera of BALOs (Bdellovibrio, Bacteriovorax, Peredibacter and Bacteriolyticum) whose species are able to utilize Gram-negative bacteria as prey cells.  The best-characterized of these predators is Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus and hence the term ‘Bdellovibrio-and-like-organisms’.   All the described species exhibit the periplasmic life cycle traits described above.  Our lab isolated a Bdellovibrio-like organism with a different life cycle, termed epibiotic (Shemesh et al. 2003).  This organism does not enter the periplasm of the prey cell, but remains attached on the outside from where it utilizes nutrients from the prey cell.  Phylogenetic studies showed that this isolate belongs to the genus Bdellovibrio (Davidov and Jurkevitch, 2004).  We have designed a 16S rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probe for detection of the genus Bdellovibrio by fluorescence in situ hybridization (Mahmoud et al. 2007).  This probe is useful not only for ecological studies but also to assist in identification of new isolates of BALOs.  Recent studies have focussed on the role of type IV pili in the attachment and invasion stages of the life cycle of BALOs (Mahmoud and Koval, 2010).

Our current research objectives are:  (1) to determine the components of predator and prey surfaces that dictate attachment and penetration; (2) to characterize the life cycle of epibiotic predators and compare it with the details of the periplasmic life cycle that have been investigated.  Our studies will contribute towards an understanding of the dynamics of microbial populations in freshwater and terrestrial environments.

Major Research Interests: life cycle, diversity and detection of Bdellovibrio-and-like organisms; structure and function of bacterial surface components; microbial ultrastructure

Current lab members
Ryan Chanyi  BMSc (Western Ontario); PhD candidate (September 2009-)
Diane Szmiett,  BMSc (Western Ontario); MSc candidate (September 2012 - )
Zach Findlay Honors Thesis student (2013-2014)

Past lab members
Khaled Mahmoud BSc, MSc (Laurentian University); PhD (2010)
Chelsea Elwood BSc, MSc (Western Ontario); research assistant (2006-2007)
Damian McNeely PhD (University of Ulster); Postdoctoral Fellow (2004-2005)
Ron Flannagan BSc (Western Ontario); MSc (2003)
Rachel Jones BSc (Dalhousie); MSc (2001)
Doug Bayley BSc (Western Ontario); MSc (1992)
Joanna Brooke BSc (University of Guelph); MSc (1992)
David Wiseman BSc (Western Ontario); MSc (1989)

Recent Fourth Year Honors students
Diane Szmiett (2011-2012); Jennah Dharamshi (2010-2011); Amy Dresser (2009-2010); Ryan Chanyi (2008-2009); Caitlin Ward (2007-2008); Andrea Pechey (2006-2007); Kathie Baer (2005-2006); Ivy Amaning (2004-2005); Chelsea Elwood (2003-2004); Krista Lyle (2002-2003); Kyle Cullingham (2001-2002); Melissa Seabrook (2000-2001); Ron Flannagan (1999-2000); Megan Ward (1998-1999); John Taylor (1998-1999)
Summer students

Diane Szmiett (2012); Emma Farago NSERC USRA (2011); Ian Lobb (2010); Mark Czuczman NSERC USRA (2008); Caitlin Ward (2008); Monty Mckillop (2004); Megan Goodwin NSERC USRA (2003); Kasia Kaluzny (2003); Krista Lyle (2002, 2003); Dan Ricciuto NSERC USRA (2000); Eric Siu NSERC USRA (1999)



Pasternak, Z., M. Njagi, Y. Shani, R. Chanyi, O. Rotem, M.N. Lurie-Weinberger, S. Koval, S. Pietrokovski, U. Gophna and E. Jurkevitch. 2013. In and out: an analysis of epibiotic vs. periplasmic bacterial predators. ISME J. doi:10.1038/ismej.2013.164

Chanyi, R.M., C. Ward, A. Pechey, and S.F. Koval. 2013. To invade or not to invade: two approaches to a prokaryotic predatory life cycle. Canadian Journal of Microbiology 59:273-279.

Koval, S.F., S.H. Hynes, R.S. Flannagan, Z. Pasternak, Y. Davidov and E. Jurkevitch.  2013.  Bdellovibrio exovorus. sp. nov., a novel predator of Caulobacter crescentus.  International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. 63:146-151.

Mahmoud, K.K. and S.F. Koval. 2010. Characterization of type IV pili in the life cycle of the predator bacterium Bdellovibrio.  Microbiology 156:1040-1051

Mahmoud, K.K., D. McNeely, C. Elwood and S.F. Koval. 2007. Design and performance of a 16S rRNA-targeted  oligonucleotide probe for detection of members of the genus Bdellovibrio by fluorescence in situ hybridization.  Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 73:7488-7493

Koval , S.F. and G.D. Sprott. 2007.  Cell fractionation. In: Methods for General and Molecular Microbiology. American Society for Microbiology Press  p. 108-137

Koval, S.F. 2007.  The Search for Hunters: culture-dependent and -independent methods for analysis of Bdellovibrio and like organisms.  In: Predatory Prokaryotes - Biology, Ecology and Evolution.  E. Jurkevitch (ed.)  Springer Microbiology Monographs.  p.191-211. (Published online: 27 October 2006)

Davidov, Y., D. Hutchon, S.F. Koval, and E. Jurkevitch. 2006. A new α-proteobacterial clade of Bdellovibrio-like predators: implications for the mitochondrial endosymbiotic theory.  Environmental Microbiology 8:2179-2188

Flannagan , R.S., M.A. Valvano and S.F. Koval 2004. Downregulation of the motA gene delays the escape of the obligate predator Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus 109J from bdelloplasts of bacterial prey cells. Microbiology 150:649-656

Shemesh , Y., Y. Davidov , S. Koval and E. Jurkevitch. 2003.  Small eats big: Ecology and diversity of Bdellovibrio and like organisms, and their dynamics in predator-prey interactions. Agronomie 23:1-7

Koval , S.F. and M.E. Bayer  1997. Bacterial capsules: no barrier to Bdellovibrio . Microbiology 143:749-753


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