In Memoriam

Renowned scientist and scholar lived to 101

Rutgers Creates Joachim Messing Endowed Chair in Molecular Genetics

The Rutgers University Board of Governors today approved the creation of the Joachim Messing Endowed Chair in Molecular Genetics.

Shared Genetics in Humans and Roundworms Shed Light on Infertility, Rutgers Study Finds

McKim Lab Postdoc featured in GSA blog

GSA's Spotlight features authors who make an impact while still in undergrad.

Dr. Gallavotti earns NSF award for latest research initiative

Dismukes research holds great promise for advancing Sustainable Energy

Search for low-cost platinum alternative leads to new technology

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.

Latest News

Discovered in bacteria as viral defense mechanism, researchers program C2c2 to manipulate cellular RNA using CRISPR

Dr. Ruth Steward is a Principal Investigator at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology and a member of the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department at Rutgers University, New Jersey. Her research focuses on the role of the new Zfrp8 gene, identified in her lab, in hematopoiesis and oogenesis.

Pal Maliga, distinguished professor in the Waksman Institute of Microbiology and professor of plant biology in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, has won the Lawrence Bogorad Awar

From Rutgers Today Pioneering Rutgers professors Richard H. Ebright and Joachim Messing were elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences today. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is one of the country’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers. It convenes academic, business and government leaders to respond to challenges facing  the nation and world.

By Robin Warshaw

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, tuberculosis was one of the nation's most feared killers.

At one point, the highly infectious disease known as TB killed more than 400 Americans a day. But by the early 1950s, TB deaths had dropped sharply – due in large part to research begun years before by a Rutgers University soil microbiologist named Selman Waksman.

Recent Publications

Gates, C, Ananyev GM, Dismukes C.  2016.  The strontium inorganic mutant of the water oxidizing center (CaMn4O5) of PSII improves WOC efficiency but slows electron flux through the terminal acceptors.. Biochim Biophys Acta.. 1857(9):1550-1560. Abstractgates_2016_woc.pdf
Herein we extend prior studies of biosynthetic strontium replacement of calcium in PSII-WOC core particles to characterize whole cells. Previous studies of Thermosynechococcus elongatus found a lower rate of light-saturated O2 from isolated PSII-WOC(Sr) cores and 5–8 × slower rate of oxygen release. We find similar properties in whole cells, and show it is due to a 20% larger Arrhenius activation barrier for O2 evolution. Cellular adaptation to the sluggish PSII-WOC(Sr) cycle occurs in which flux through the QAQB acceptor gate becomes limiting for turnover rate in vivo. Benzoquinone derivatives that bind to QB site remove this kinetic chokepoint yielding 31% greater O2 quantum yield (QY) of PSII-WOC(Sr) vs. PSII-WOC(Ca). QY and efficiency of the WOC(Sr) catalytic cycle are greatly improved at low light flux, due to fewer misses and backward transitions and 3-fold longer lifetime of the unstable S3 state, attributed to greater thermodynamic stabilization of the WOC(Sr) relative to the photoactive tyrosine YZ. More linear and less cyclic electron flow through PSII occurs per PSII-WOC(Sr). The organismal response to the more active PSII centers in Sr-grown cells at 45 °C is to lower the number of active PSII-WOC per Chl, producing comparable oxygen and energy per cell. We conclude that redox and protonic energy fluxes created by PSII are primary determinants for optimal growth rate of T. elongatus. We further conclude that the (Sr-favored) intermediate-spin S = 5/2 form of the S2 state is the active form in the catalytic cycle relative to the low-spin S = 1/2 form.
Krishnan, A, Zhang S, Liu Y, Tadmori KA, Bryant DA, Dismukes GC.  2016.  Consequences of ccmR deletion on respiration, fermentation and H2 metabolism in cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002. Biotechnol Bioeng. Abstract2016_biotechbioeng_krishnan_ccmr_ko_bit25913.pdf
CcmR, a LysR-type transcriptional regulator, represses the genes encoding components of the high-affinity carbon concentration mechanism in cyanobacteria. Unexpectedly, deletion of the ccmR gene was found to alter the expression of the terminal oxidase and fermentative genes, especially the hydrogenase operon in the cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002. Consistent with the transcriptomic data, the deletion strain exhibits flux increases (30-50%) in both aerobic O2 respiration and anaerobic H2 evolution. To understand how CcmR influences anaerobic metabolism, the kinetics of autofermentation were investigated following photoautotrophic growth. The autofermentative H2 yield increased by 50% in the CcmR deletion strain compared to the wild-type strain, and increased to 160% (within 20 h) upon continuous removal of H2 from the medium ("milking") to suppress uptake. Consistent with this greater reductant flux to H2 , the mutant excreted less lactate during autofermentation (NAD(P)H consuming pathway). To enhance the rate of NADH production during anaerobic metabolism, the ccmR mutant was engineered to introduce GAPDH overexpression (more NADH production) and LDH deletion (less NADH consumption). The triple mutant (ccmR deletion + GAPDH overexpression + LDH deletion) showed 6-8-fold greater H2 yield than the WT strain, achieving conversion rates of 17 nmol 108 cells-1 h-1 and yield of 0.87 H2 per glucose equivalent (8.9% theoretical maximum). Simultaneous monitoring of the intracellular NAD(P)H concentration and H2 production rate by these mutants reveals an inverse correspondence between these variables indicating hydrogenase-dependent H2 production as a major sink for consuming NAD(P)H in preference to excretion of reduced carbon as lactate during fermentation.
Ananyev, GM, Gates C, Dismukes GC.  2016.  The Oxygen quantum yield in diverse algae and cyanobacteria is controlled by partitioning of flux between linear and cyclic electron flow within photosystem II.. Biochim Biophys Acta.. 1857(9):1380-1391. Abstract
We have measured flash-induced oxygen quantum yields (O2-QYs) and primary charge separation (Chl variable fluorescence yield, Fv/Fm) in vivo among phylogenetically diverse microalgae and cyanobacteria. Higher O2-QYs can be attained in cells by releasing constraints on charge transfer at the Photosystem II (PSII) acceptor side by adding membrane-permeable benzoquinone (BQ) derivatives that oxidize plastosemiquinone QB- and QBH2. This method allows uncoupling PSII turnover from its natural regulation in living cells, without artifacts of isolating PSII complexes. This approach reveals different extents of regulation across species, controlled at the QB- acceptor site. Arthrospira maxima is confirmed as the most efficient PSII-WOC (water oxidizing complex) and exhibits the least regulation of flux. Thermosynechococcus elongatus exhibits an O2-QY of 30%, suggesting strong downregulation. WOC cycle simulations with the most accurate model (VZAD) show that a light-driven backward transition (net addition of an electron to the WOC, distinct from recombination) occurs in up to 25% of native PSIIs in the S2 and S3 states, while adding BQ prevents backward transitions and increases the lifetime of S2 and S3 by 10-fold. Backward transitions occur in PSIIs that have plastosemiquinone radicals in the QB site and are postulated to be physiologically regulated pathways for storing light energy as proton gradient through direct PSII-cyclic electron flow (PSII-CEF). PSII-CEF is independent of classical PSI/cyt-b6f-CEF and provides an alternative proton translocation pathway for energy conversion. PSII-CEF enables variable fluxes between linear and cyclic electron pathways, thus accommodating species-dependent needs for redox and ion-gradient energy sources powered by a single photosystem.
Vinyard, DJ, Sun JS, Gimpel J, Ananyev GM, Mayfield SP, Dismukes GC.  2016.  Natural isoforms of the Photosystem II D1 subunit differ in photoassembly efficiency of the water-oxidizing complex.. Photosynth Res.. Abstractvinyard_et_al_2016_d1_isoforms.pdf
Oxygenic photosynthesis efficiency at increasing solar flux is limited by light-induced damage (photoinhibition) of Photosystem II (PSII), primarily targeting the D1 reaction center subunit. Some cyanobacteria contain two natural isoforms of D1 that function better under low light (D1:1) or high light (D1:2). Herein, rates and yields of photoassembly of the Mn4CaO5 water-oxidizing complex (WOC) from the free inorganic cofactors (Mn2+, Ca2+, water, electron acceptor) and apo-WOC-PSII are shown to differ significantly: D1:1 apo-WOC-PSII exhibits a 2.3-fold faster rate-limiting step of photoassembly and up to seven-fold faster rate to the first light-stable Mn3+ intermediate, IM1*, but with a much higher rate of photoinhibition than D1:2. Conversely, D1:2 apo-WOC-PSII assembles slower but has up to seven-fold higher yield, achieved by a higher quantum yield of charge separation and slower photoinhibition rate. These results confirm and extend previous observations of the two holoenzymes: D1:2-PSII has a greater quantum yield of primary charge separation, faster [P680 + Q A - ] charge recombination and less photoinhibition that results in a slower rate and higher yield of photoassembly of its apo-WOC-PSII complex. In contrast, D1:1-PSII has a lower quantum yield of primary charge separation, a slower [P680 + Q A - ] charge recombination rate, and faster photoinhibition that together result in higher rate but lower yield of photoassembly at higher light intensities. Cyanobacterial PSII reaction centers that contain the high- and low-light D1 isoforms can tailor performance to optimize photosynthesis at varying light conditions, with similar consequences on their photoassembly kinetics and yield. These different efficiencies of photoassembly versus photoinhibition impose differential costs for biosynthesis as a function of light intensity.