Areas of Research

More than a few Model organisms at work: Maize, Drosophila, C. Elegans, Mice, Tabacco, Yeast, E.coli, Algae and more.


Methods and Tools to aid researchers.

In the News: High School Student Makes Duckweed Discovery

Old Bridge Student Finds Unknown Gene in Duckweed During a Student Scholar Program at Rutgers University

Located on Busch Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the Waksman Institute of Microbiology is an interdisciplinary research institute devoted to excellence in basic research. Focus areas include developmental biology, cell biology, biochemistry, structural biology, genetics, and genomics.

To support the educational mission of Rutgers, Waksman faculty members hold appointments in academic departments throughout the university. Our researchers train undergraduate students, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows, as well as engage high school students in research through an outreach program.

Recent Publications

Vorobiev, SM, Gensler Y, Vahedian-Movahed H, Seetharaman J, Su M, Huang JY, Xiao R, Kornhaber G, Montelione GT, Tong L et al..  2014.  Structure of the DNA-Binding and RNA-Polymerase-Binding Region of Transcription Antitermination Factor λQ.. Structure . 22:485-495. Abstract
The bacteriophage λ Q protein is a transcription antitermination factor that controls expression of the phage late genes as a stable component of the transcription elongation complex. To join the elongation complex, λQ binds a specific DNA sequence element and interacts with RNA polymerase that is paused during early elongation. λQ binds to the paused early-elongation complex through interactions between λQ and two regions of RNA polymerase: region 4 of the σ(70) subunit and the flap region of the β subunit. We present the 2.1 Å resolution crystal structure of a portion of λQ containing determinants for interaction with DNA, interaction with region 4 of σ(70), and interaction with the β flap. The structure provides a framework for interpreting prior genetic and biochemical analysis and sets the stage for future structural studies to elucidate the mechanism by which λQ alters the functional properties of the transcription elongation complex.
Minakhina, S, Changela N, Steward R.  2014.  Zfrp8/PDCD2 is required in ovarian stem cells and interacts with the piRNA pathway machinery.. Development. 141(2):259-268. AbstractWebsite
The maintenance of stem cells is central to generating diverse cell populations in many tissues throughout the life of an animal. Elucidating the mechanisms involved in how stem cells are formed and maintained is crucial to understanding both normal developmental processes and the growth of many cancers. Previously, we showed that Zfrp8/PDCD2 is essential for the maintenance of Drosophila hematopoietic stem cells. Here, we show that Zfrp8/PDCD2 is also required in both germline and follicle stem cells in the Drosophila ovary. Expression of human PDCD2 fully rescues the Zfrp8 phenotype, underlining the functional conservation of Zfrp8/PDCD2. The piRNA pathway is essential in early oogenesis, and we find that nuclear localization of Zfrp8 in germline stem cells and their offspring is regulated by some piRNA pathway genes. We also show that Zfrp8 forms a complex with the piRNA pathway protein Maelstrom and controls the accumulation of Maelstrom in the nuage. Furthermore, Zfrp8 regulates the activity of specific transposable elements also controlled by Maelstrom and Piwi. Our results suggest that Zfrp8/PDCD2 is not an integral member of the piRNA pathway, but has an overlapping function, possibly competing with Maelstrom and Piwi.
Wang, W, Haberer G, Gundlach H, Gläßer C, Nussbaumer T, Luo MC, Lomsadze A, Borodovsky M, Kerstetter RA, Shanklin J et al..  2014.  The Spirodela polyrhiza genome reveals insights into its neotenous reduction fast growth and aquatic lifestyle. 5 AbstractWebsite
The subfamily of the Lemnoideae belongs to a different order than other monocotyledonous species that have been sequenced and comprises aquatic plants that grow rapidly on the water surface. Here we select Spirodela polyrhiza for whole-genome sequencing. We show that Spirodela has a genome with no signs of recent retrotranspositions but signatures of two ancient whole-genome duplications, possibly 95 million years ago (mya), older than those in Arabidopsis and rice. Its genome has only 19,623 predicted protein-coding genes, which is 28% less than the dicotyledonous Arabidopsis thaliana and 50% less than monocotyledonous rice. We propose that at least in part, the neotenous reduction of these aquatic plants is based on readjusted copy numbers of promoters and repressors of the juvenile-to-adult transition. The Spirodela genome, along with its unique biology and physiology, will stimulate new insights into environmental adaptation, ecology, evolution and plant development, and will be instrumental for future bioenergy applications.