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

Andrea Gallavotti, Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Biology at the Waksman Institute, is a Co-PI of a recently awarded five-year collaborative grant. The project, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and titled “Genomic and Synthetic Approaches Linking Auxin Signaling Modules to Functional Domains in Maize”, seeks to understand how auxin signaling regulates the formation of specific functional domains in maize inflorescences (

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.

Recent Publications

Zhang, W, Messing J.  In Press.  PacBio RS for gene family studies. Methods in Molecular Biology. Haplotyping.
Wu, Y, Messing J.  In Press.  Understanding and improving protein traits in maize seeds. Achieving Sustainable Maize Cultivation.
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.
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.