Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Microbiology & Immunology

First Advisor

Kimberly Jefferson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Dennis Ohman, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Darrell Peterson, Ph.D.


Preterm birth, birth prior to 37 weeks gestation, is the leading cause of neonatal mortality and morbidity worldwide. While the uterine cavity and amniotic fluid largely remain sterile throughout gestation, bacterial infections can occur and are associated with preterm birth and/or preterm premature rupture of the fetal membranes (PPROM). Sneathia amnii can be detected as a component of the vaginal flora in healthy women; however, it’s also associated with bacterial vaginosis and preterm birth. Sn35, an isolate of S.amnii, was identified and sequenced through the Vaginal Human Microbiome Project at VCU. Our objective was to classify potential virulence determinants in Sn35 and we successfully identified a putative zinc endopeptidase. The zinc endopeptidase appeared to cleave itself in a site-specific manner under calcium-depleted conditions, resulting in a truncated protein. The truncated protein did have collagenase activity and bacteriolytic activity as well.


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