Current Projects

The Newton Laboratory is broadly interested in host-associated microbes.  We study who those microbes are, what those microbes are doing , how they persist and infect and what the consequences are to their genomic evolution.  Projects in the laboratory range from highly mechanistic and cell biological to ecological and bioinformatic.

Molecular Mechanisms of Pathogenesis and Mutualism:  How do endosymbionts invade and persist in host lineages? Do the molecular tools they use resemble those of pathogens? Our laboratory studies how one extremely successful parasite, Wolbachia pipientis, invades and manipulates host cells.  One exciting project we’re working on focuses on Wolbachia’s reliance on host actin regulatory proteins for maternal transmission.  We are using Drosophila mutants that bottleneck a Wolbachia infection to select for bacterial suppressors of the host phenotype.  Check out our recent publications on this in AEM and PLoS Pathogens.

Metabolic Function in the Microbiome: The honey bee gut is home to varied and diverse bacterial species.  We study the functional meaning of this diversity with regards to metabolism, ecological interactions between community members, and ultimately, host health.  Check out our most recent publication in Environmental Microbiology, by graduate student Freddy Lee.

Exploring How Host Genetics, Society and Development Interact to Form the Microbiome: Where do host-specific bacteria come from? How is an organism colonized during development? Does its sociological context or genetic background alter microbiome composition? We investigate these questions in the context of the honey bee.

Evolutionary Genomics: Host association can have dramatic effects on bacterial evolution.  We are interested in the genomic changes that occur when bacterial lineages associate with  hosts.  These changes include pseudogenization, gene loss, gene duplications, and rearrangements.  We’ve thought about this in the context of intracellularity and most recently, we’ve been thinking about Wolbachia, Yersinia, and Rhizobia.

Bioinformatics: The laboratory is interested in methods and tool development for the study of genomes, genes, and their evolution. See our most recent publication in PeerJ.

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