Associate Professor Neville Firth

A12 - Macleay Building
The University of Sydney

Telephone +61 2 9351 3369
Fax +61 2 9351 4771

Website Molecular Genetics Laboratory
Room 215, A12 - Macleay

Research interests

The broad focus of my lab is to understand at the molecular level how bacteria are able to evolve so rapidly. In a little over half a century, strains of 'golden staph' (Staphylococcus aureus) have become resistant to most useful antibiotics. As a result, this bacterial pathogen remains a major cause of hospital-acquired infections around the world, and it is increasingly a cause of serious infections in the general community. In most cases, MRSA (methicillin-resistant S. aureus) has become resistant by capturing pre-existing resistance genes and integrating them into its genome.

To understand the details of how these genes are captured, regulated, inherited, and spread by S. aureus, we undertake research on the following topics:

  • Molecular biology of mobile DNA, such as multiresistance plasmids, transposons and insertion sequence (IS) elements
  • DNA replication and segregation
  • Gene transfer mechanisms such as conjugation (DNA transmission via cell-to-cell contact)
  • Regulation of gene expression
Genetic and transcriptional organisation of conjugative multiresistance plasmid pSK41 Antisense RNA control system that regulates pSK41 replication Structure of the pSK41 ParM segregation protein

Selected grants

2013

  • A Research Platform for exploring the Genotype - Phenotype Nexus; Harry E, Paulsen I, Wilkins M, Waterhouse P, Scott R, Djordjevic S, Neilan B, Cavicchioli R, Charles I, Packer N, Rose R, Firth N, Hutvagner G, Whitchurch C, Willows R, Church W; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF).

2012

  • Mechanisms Of Stable Gene Inheritance In Multiresistant Staphylococcus Aureus; Firth N, Schumacher M, Kwong S, Jensen S; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.
  • Mechanisms of alpha-hemolysin induced immunoevasion by Staphylococcus aureus; Weninger W, Abtin A, Firth N, Abtin A; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.
  • Single Cell Genomics; Paulsen I, Wilkins M, Packer N, Wade C, Waterhouse P, Scott R, Dawes I, Cavicchioli R, Willows R, Whitchurch C, Charles I, Stokes H, Gillings M, Jin D, Firth N; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF).

2009

  • Microbial and Cellular Imaging and Analysis Facility; Whitchurch C, Harry E, Phillips M, Ford M, Dalton J, Ralph P, Doblin M, Smith N, Firth N, Trewhella J, Cox G, Braet F, Carter D, Newsome T, Dixon N, Walker M, Mackenzie J, Hanssen E, Tilley L, Mak J, Murphy R, Ryan M, Stephenson D, Vaux D, Tang C, Fisher P, Gendall A, Crewther S, Smith T, Robins-Browne R, Hartland E; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF).
  • Identification and analysis of novel replication initiation factors in Staphlylococcus aureus; Firth N, Cordwell S, Kwong S; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.
  • DNA segregation in multiresistant Staphylococcus aureus; Firth N, Schumacher M, Jensen S, Skurray R; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.

2007

  • Molecular mechanisms of plasmid maintenance in multiply-resistant staphylococci; Firth N, Schumacher M, Kwong S, Jensen S, Skurray R; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.

2005

  • Coordinate regulation of a conjugative staphylococcal multiresistance plasmid by a global regulator of transcription; Firth N; University of Sydney/Research & Development.

2004

  • Molecular genetics and evolution of antibiotic resistant staphylococci; Firth N, Skurray R; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.

2003

  • Plasmid maintenance and interactions with the host cell and its genome; Firth N, Skurray R; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).
  • Transcriptional analysis of the staphylococcal insertion element IS257; Firth N; DVC Research/Research and Development Scheme: Newly Appointed Staff (NAS).
  • Photometrics cascade: 650 digital imaging system; Firth N, Skurray R; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Equipment Grants.

2002

  • NHMRC EQUIP 2002 Brown-cls; Brown M, Firth N; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Equipment Grants.

2001

  • Molecular genetics and evolution of antibiotic resistant staphylococci; Skurray R, Firth N; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.

2000

  • Molecular biology of bacterial conjugative macromolecular transport; Skurray R, Firth N; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Large Research Grants (LRG).
  • Molecular genetics and evolution of antibiotic resistance in staphylococci; Skurray R, Firth N; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.
  • Macromolecule extraction and analysis facility; Firth N, Cullen K; Clive & Vera Ramaciotti Foundation/Research Grant.
  • Molecular genetics and evolution of antibiotic resistant staphylococci; Skurray R, Firth N; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.

Selected publications

Download citations: PDF RTF Endnote

Book Chapters

  • Firth, N., Skurray, R. (2006). Genetics: Accessory Elements and Genetic Exchange. In V A Fischetti, R P Novick, J J Ferretti, D A Portnoy, J I Rood (Eds.), Gram-Positive Pathogens, (pp. 413-426). Washington DC: ASM Press.
  • Firth, N. (2003). Evolution of antimicrobial multi-resistance in gram-positive bacteria. In Carlos F. Amabile-Cuevas (Eds.), Multiple Drug Resistant Bacteria, (pp. 33-60). Wymondham, UK: Horizon Scientific Press.

Journals

  • Abtin, A., Jain, R., Mitchell, A., Roediger, B., Brzoska, A., Tikoo, S., Cheng, Q., Ng, L., Cavanagh, L., von Andrian, U., Firth, N., et al (2014). Perivascular macrophages mediate neutrophil recruitment during bacterial skin infection. Nature Immunology, 15(1), 45-53. [More Information]
  • Liu, M., Kwong, S., Jensen, S., Brzoska, A., Firth, N. (2013). Biology of the staphylococcal conjugative multiresistance plasmid pSK41. Plasmid, 70(1), 42-51. [More Information]
  • Edwards, J., Betts, L., Frazier, M., Pollet, R., Kwong, S., Walton, W., Ballentine, K., Huang, J., Habibi, S., Campo, M., Firth, N., et al (2013). Molecular basis of antibiotic multiresistance transfer in Staphylococcus aureus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 110(8), 2804-2809. [More Information]
  • Brzoska, A., Firth, N. (2013). Two-Plasmid Vector System for Independently Controlled Expression of Green and Red Fluorescent Fusion Proteins in Staphylococcus aureus. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 79(9), 3133-3136. [More Information]
  • Liu, M., Kwong, S., Pon, C., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2012). Genetic requirements for replication initiation of the staphylococcal multiresistance plasmid pSK41. Microbiology, 158(6), 1456-1467. [More Information]
  • Liew, A., Theis, T., Jensen, S., Garcia-Lara, J., Foster, S., Firth, N., Lewis, P., Harry, E. (2011). A simple plasmid-based system that allows rapid generation of tightly controlled gene expression in Staphylococcus aureus. Microbiology, 157(3), 666-676. [More Information]
  • Shearer, J., Wireman, J., Hostetler, J., Forberger, H., Borman, J., Gill, J., Sanchez, S., Mankin, A., LaMarre, J., Lindsay, J., Jensen, S., Firth, N., Skurray, R., et al (2011). Major families of multiresistant plasmids from geographically and epidemiologically diverse staphylococci. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics, 1, 581-591. [More Information]
  • Jensen, S., Apisiridej, S., Kwong, S., Yang, Y., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2010). Analysis of the prototypical Staphylococcus aureus multiresistance plasmid pSK1. Plasmid, 64(3), 135-142. [More Information]
  • Howden, B., Seemann, T., Harrison, P., McEvoy, C., Stanton, J., Rand, C., Mason, C., Jensen, S., Firth, N., Davies, J., et al (2010). Complete Genome Sequence of Staphylococcus aureus Strain JKD6008, an ST239 Clone of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus with Intermediate-Level Vancomycin Resistance. Journal of Bacteriology, 192(21), 5848-5849. [More Information]
  • Perez-Roth, E., Kwong, S., Alcoba-Florez, J., Firth, N., Mendez-Alvarez, S. (2010). Complete Nucleotide Sequence and Comparative Analysis of pPR9, a 41.7-Kilobase Conjugative Staphylococcal Multiresistance Plasmid Conferring High-Level Mupirocin Resistance. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 54(5), 2252-2257. [More Information]
  • Kwong, S., Jensen, S., Firth, N. (2010). Prevalence of Fst-like toxin–antitoxin systems. Microbiology, 156(4), 975-977. [More Information]
  • Popp, D., Xu, W., Narita, A., Brzoska, A., Skurray, R., Firth, N., Goshdastider, U., Maeda, Y., Robinson, R., Schumacher, M. (2010). Structure and Filament Dynamics of the pSK41 Actin-like ParM Protein Implications for Plasmid DNA Segregation. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 285(13), 10130-10140. [More Information]
  • Weaver, K., Kwong, S., Firth, N., Francia, M. (2009). The RepA_N replicons of Gram-positive bacteria: a family of broadly distributed but narrow host range plasmids. Plasmid, 61(2), 94-109.
  • Ni, L., Jensen, S., Tonthat, N., Berg, T., Kwong, S., Guan, F., Brown, M., Skurray, R., Firth, N., Schumacher, M. (2009). The Staphylococcus aureus pSK41 plasmid-encoded ArtA protein is a master regulator of plasmid transmission genes and contains a RHH motif used in alternate DNA-binding modes. Nucleic Acids Research, 37, 6970-6983.
  • LeBard, R., Jensen, S., Arnaiz, I., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2008). A multimer resolution system contributes to segregational stability of the prototypical staphylococcal conjugative multiresistance plasmid pSK41. FEMS Microbiology Letters, 284(1), 58-67.
  • Kwong, S., Lim, R., LeBard, R., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2008). Analysis of the pSK1 replicon, a prototype from the staphylococcal multiresistance plasmid family. Microbiology, 154(10), 3084-3094.
  • Jensen, S., Kwong, S., Lyon, B., Firth, N. (2008). Evolution of multiple drug resistance in staphylococci. Microbiology Australia, 29(3), 120-124.
  • Kwong, S., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2007). Antisense RNA-mediated replication control of staphylococcal multiresistance plasmid Psk41. Plasmid, 57(2), 189-189.
  • Jensen, S., Guan, T., Kwong, S., Berg, T., Brown, M., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2007). Global regulation of survival functions in conjugative Staphylococcal multiresistance plasmids. Plasmid, 57(2), 197-198.
  • Schumacher, M., Glover, T., Brzoska, A., Jensen, S., Dunham, T., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2007). Segrosome structure revealed by a complex of ParR with centromere DNA. Nature, 450(7173), 1268-1271.
  • Kwong, S., Firth, N. (2006). Regulatory RNA molecules. Microbiology Australia, September, 124-127.
  • Kwong, S., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2006). Replication control of staphylococcal multiresistance plasmid pSK41: an antisense RNA mediates dual-level regulation of Rep expression. Journal of Bacteriology, 188(12), 4404-4412.
  • Kwong, S., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2004). Staphylococcus Aureus Multiresistance Plasmid pSK41: Analysis Of The Replication Region, Initiator Protein Binding And Antisense RNA Regulation. Molecular Microbiology, 51(2), 497-509.
  • Simpson, A., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2003). A single gene on the staphylococcal multiresistance plasmid pSK1 encodes a novel partitioning system. Journal of Bacteriology, 185(7), 2143-2152.
  • Grkovic, S., Brown, M., Hardie, K., Firth, N., Skurray, R. (2003). Stable low-copy-number Staphylococcus aureus shuttle vectors. Microbiology, 149(2003), 785-794.
  • Ai, Y., Firth, N., Jermiin, L. (2003). Teaching Bioinformatics: A student-centered and problem based approach. CAL-Laborate, 2003 (June), 25-30.
  • Lu, J., Manchak, J., Klimke, W., Firth, N., Davidson, C., Skurray, R., Frost, L. (2002). Analysis and characterization of the IncFV plasmid pED208 transfer region. Plasmid, 48(1), 24-37.
  • Ai, Y., Firth, N., Jermiin, L. (2002). Building bridges in teaching bioinformatics: The use of stu-dent-centred teaching and problem-based learning in cross-discipline courses. The China Papers: Tertiary Science and Mathematics Teaching for the 21st Century, (1), 51-56.

2014

  • Abtin, A., Jain, R., Mitchell, A., Roediger, B., Brzoska, A., Tikoo, S., Cheng, Q., Ng, L., Cavanagh, L., von Andrian, U., Firth, N., et al (2014). Perivascular macrophages mediate neutrophil recruitment during bacterial skin infection. Nature Immunology, 15(1), 45-53. [More Information]

2013

  • Liu, M., Kwong, S., Jensen, S., Brzoska, A., Firth, N. (2013). Biology of the staphylococcal conjugative multiresistance plasmid pSK41. Plasmid, 70(1), 42-51. [More Information]
  • Edwards, J., Betts, L., Frazier, M., Pollet, R., Kwong, S., Walton, W., Ballentine, K., Huang, J., Habibi, S., Campo, M., Firth, N., et al (2013). Molecular basis of antibiotic multiresistance transfer in Staphylococcus aureus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 110(8), 2804-2809. [More Information]
  • Brzoska, A., Firth, N. (2013). Two-Plasmid Vector System for Independently Controlled Expression of Green and Red Fluorescent Fusion Proteins in Staphylococcus aureus. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 79(9), 3133-3136. [More Information]

2012

  • Liu, M., Kwong, S., Pon, C., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2012). Genetic requirements for replication initiation of the staphylococcal multiresistance plasmid pSK41. Microbiology, 158(6), 1456-1467. [More Information]

2011

  • Liew, A., Theis, T., Jensen, S., Garcia-Lara, J., Foster, S., Firth, N., Lewis, P., Harry, E. (2011). A simple plasmid-based system that allows rapid generation of tightly controlled gene expression in Staphylococcus aureus. Microbiology, 157(3), 666-676. [More Information]
  • Shearer, J., Wireman, J., Hostetler, J., Forberger, H., Borman, J., Gill, J., Sanchez, S., Mankin, A., LaMarre, J., Lindsay, J., Jensen, S., Firth, N., Skurray, R., et al (2011). Major families of multiresistant plasmids from geographically and epidemiologically diverse staphylococci. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics, 1, 581-591. [More Information]

2010

  • Jensen, S., Apisiridej, S., Kwong, S., Yang, Y., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2010). Analysis of the prototypical Staphylococcus aureus multiresistance plasmid pSK1. Plasmid, 64(3), 135-142. [More Information]
  • Howden, B., Seemann, T., Harrison, P., McEvoy, C., Stanton, J., Rand, C., Mason, C., Jensen, S., Firth, N., Davies, J., et al (2010). Complete Genome Sequence of Staphylococcus aureus Strain JKD6008, an ST239 Clone of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus with Intermediate-Level Vancomycin Resistance. Journal of Bacteriology, 192(21), 5848-5849. [More Information]
  • Perez-Roth, E., Kwong, S., Alcoba-Florez, J., Firth, N., Mendez-Alvarez, S. (2010). Complete Nucleotide Sequence and Comparative Analysis of pPR9, a 41.7-Kilobase Conjugative Staphylococcal Multiresistance Plasmid Conferring High-Level Mupirocin Resistance. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 54(5), 2252-2257. [More Information]
  • Kwong, S., Jensen, S., Firth, N. (2010). Prevalence of Fst-like toxin–antitoxin systems. Microbiology, 156(4), 975-977. [More Information]
  • Popp, D., Xu, W., Narita, A., Brzoska, A., Skurray, R., Firth, N., Goshdastider, U., Maeda, Y., Robinson, R., Schumacher, M. (2010). Structure and Filament Dynamics of the pSK41 Actin-like ParM Protein Implications for Plasmid DNA Segregation. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 285(13), 10130-10140. [More Information]

2009

  • Weaver, K., Kwong, S., Firth, N., Francia, M. (2009). The RepA_N replicons of Gram-positive bacteria: a family of broadly distributed but narrow host range plasmids. Plasmid, 61(2), 94-109.
  • Ni, L., Jensen, S., Tonthat, N., Berg, T., Kwong, S., Guan, F., Brown, M., Skurray, R., Firth, N., Schumacher, M. (2009). The Staphylococcus aureus pSK41 plasmid-encoded ArtA protein is a master regulator of plasmid transmission genes and contains a RHH motif used in alternate DNA-binding modes. Nucleic Acids Research, 37, 6970-6983.

2008

  • LeBard, R., Jensen, S., Arnaiz, I., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2008). A multimer resolution system contributes to segregational stability of the prototypical staphylococcal conjugative multiresistance plasmid pSK41. FEMS Microbiology Letters, 284(1), 58-67.
  • Kwong, S., Lim, R., LeBard, R., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2008). Analysis of the pSK1 replicon, a prototype from the staphylococcal multiresistance plasmid family. Microbiology, 154(10), 3084-3094.
  • Jensen, S., Kwong, S., Lyon, B., Firth, N. (2008). Evolution of multiple drug resistance in staphylococci. Microbiology Australia, 29(3), 120-124.

2007

  • Kwong, S., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2007). Antisense RNA-mediated replication control of staphylococcal multiresistance plasmid Psk41. Plasmid, 57(2), 189-189.
  • Jensen, S., Guan, T., Kwong, S., Berg, T., Brown, M., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2007). Global regulation of survival functions in conjugative Staphylococcal multiresistance plasmids. Plasmid, 57(2), 197-198.
  • Schumacher, M., Glover, T., Brzoska, A., Jensen, S., Dunham, T., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2007). Segrosome structure revealed by a complex of ParR with centromere DNA. Nature, 450(7173), 1268-1271.

2006

  • Firth, N., Skurray, R. (2006). Genetics: Accessory Elements and Genetic Exchange. In V A Fischetti, R P Novick, J J Ferretti, D A Portnoy, J I Rood (Eds.), Gram-Positive Pathogens, (pp. 413-426). Washington DC: ASM Press.
  • Kwong, S., Firth, N. (2006). Regulatory RNA molecules. Microbiology Australia, September, 124-127.
  • Kwong, S., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2006). Replication control of staphylococcal multiresistance plasmid pSK41: an antisense RNA mediates dual-level regulation of Rep expression. Journal of Bacteriology, 188(12), 4404-4412.

2004

  • Kwong, S., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2004). Staphylococcus Aureus Multiresistance Plasmid pSK41: Analysis Of The Replication Region, Initiator Protein Binding And Antisense RNA Regulation. Molecular Microbiology, 51(2), 497-509.

2003

  • Simpson, A., Skurray, R., Firth, N. (2003). A single gene on the staphylococcal multiresistance plasmid pSK1 encodes a novel partitioning system. Journal of Bacteriology, 185(7), 2143-2152.
  • Firth, N. (2003). Evolution of antimicrobial multi-resistance in gram-positive bacteria. In Carlos F. Amabile-Cuevas (Eds.), Multiple Drug Resistant Bacteria, (pp. 33-60). Wymondham, UK: Horizon Scientific Press.
  • Grkovic, S., Brown, M., Hardie, K., Firth, N., Skurray, R. (2003). Stable low-copy-number Staphylococcus aureus shuttle vectors. Microbiology, 149(2003), 785-794.
  • Ai, Y., Firth, N., Jermiin, L. (2003). Teaching Bioinformatics: A student-centered and problem based approach. CAL-Laborate, 2003 (June), 25-30.

2002

  • Lu, J., Manchak, J., Klimke, W., Firth, N., Davidson, C., Skurray, R., Frost, L. (2002). Analysis and characterization of the IncFV plasmid pED208 transfer region. Plasmid, 48(1), 24-37.
  • Ai, Y., Firth, N., Jermiin, L. (2002). Building bridges in teaching bioinformatics: The use of stu-dent-centred teaching and problem-based learning in cross-discipline courses. The China Papers: Tertiary Science and Mathematics Teaching for the 21st Century, (1), 51-56.

To update your profile click here. For support on your academic profile contact Research Support.