Joachim Messing, Dr. rer. nat., ML

September 2016

Joachim Messing is a biologist recognized for work in genomics and biotechnology. The shotgun DNA sequencing method and the M13mp/pUC/JM cloning kits made him the most frequently cited scientist in the world for the eighties. Messing made his innovations freely available, ensuring rapid advances in all life sciences. With contributions to plant genomics he focuses on raising the nutritional quality of food. Messing was born in Duisburg, Germany, in 1946, studied Pharmacy at the Free University of Berlin, and received his doctorate degree from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Biochemistry. After studies at the University of California at San Francisco and Davis, he rose through the faculty ranks at the University of Minnesota before becoming a University Professor of Molecular Biology at Rutgers and then the Director of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, where he holds also the Waksman Chair in Molecular Genetics. He was winner of the 2013 Wolf Prize in Agriculture and the 2014 Promega Biotechnology Award. Messing, a Fellow of the American Association of the Advancement in Science and the American Academy of Microbiology, is a member of the US and the German National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Research Highlights

Besides his early work in molecular biology Messing has focused on plant genetics. His laboratory has studied in particular genes that are expressed during the development of cereal seeds. He is well known for the genomic studies of grass genomes and his laboratory has contributed to the sequencing of rice, sorghum, maize, Brachypodium, and Spirodela. These genomic sequences have permitted his laboratory to study the organization and evolution of the genes that control the supply of proteins for nutrition. More recently, his laboratory has used RNA interference to study the role of these proteins in seed development and molecular breeding. One of the new initiatives of his laboratory investigates the potential of sweet sorghum and duckweed as alternative bio-energy sources. Publications are tagged in categories of Bioenergy, Epigenetics, Genome Evolution, Genome Structure, Protein Quality, RNAi, and Shotgun DNA Sequencing. Out of 200 publications prior to 2008 only representative samples are listed.

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.
Cao, H X, Vu G T H, Wang W, Appenroth KJ, Messing J, Schubert I.  2016.  The map-based genome sequence of Spirodela polyrhiza aligned with its chromosomes, a reference for karyotype evolution.. The New phytologist. 209(1):354-63. Abstract
Duckweeds are aquatic monocotyledonous plants of potential economic interest with fast vegetative propagation, comprising 37 species with variable genome sizes (0.158-1.88 Gbp). The genomic sequence of Spirodela polyrhiza, the smallest and the most ancient duckweed genome, needs to be aligned to its chromosomes as a reference and prerequisite to study the genome and karyotype evolution of other duckweed species. We selected physically mapped bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) containing Spirodela DNA inserts with little or no repetitive elements as probes for multicolor fluorescence in situ hybridization (mcFISH), using an optimized BAC pooling strategy, to validate its physical map and correlate it with its chromosome complement. By consecutive mcFISH analyses, we assigned the originally assembled 32 pseudomolecules (supercontigs) of the genomic sequences to the 20 chromosomes of S. polyrhiza. A Spirodela cytogenetic map containing 96 BAC markers with an average distance of 0.89 Mbp was constructed. Using a cocktail of 41 BACs in three colors, all chromosome pairs could be individualized simultaneously. Seven ancestral blocks emerged from duplicated chromosome segments of 19 Spirodela chromosomes. The chromosomally integrated genome of S. polyrhiza and the established prerequisites for comparative chromosome painting enable future studies on the chromosome homoeology and karyotype evolution of duckweed species.
Messing, J.  2016.  Phage M13 for the treatment of Alzheimer and Parkinson disease.. Gene. 583(2):85-9. Abstract
The studies of microbes have been instrumental in combatting infectious diseases, but they have also led to great insights into basic biological mechanism like DNA replication, transcription, and translation of mRNA. In particular, the studies of bacterial viruses, also called bacteriophage, have been quite useful to study specific cellular processes because of the ease to isolate their DNA, mRNA, and proteins. Here, I review the recent discovery of how properties of the filamentous phage M13 emerge as a novel approach to combat neurodegenerative diseases.