News and Announcements

Matthew Fields

Dr. Matthew Fields: New Director for the Center for Biofilm Engineering.

Matthew Fields, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and new Director for the Center for Biofilm Engineering, recently spoke with the MSU news team about the CBE and his new role as director. 

Cover of the journal of pharmacology

June 2015 - Quinn Lab research featured on the cover of The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 

Mark Quinn and members of his team, Igor Schepetkin, Liliya Kirpotina and Irina Kochetkova, worked collaboratively on the research covered in this month's Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.  This ground breaking research looks into new ways of treating rheumatiod arthritis. Read an interview with Mark Quinn on the significance of his team's findings.

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May 2015 - Two Graduate Students Receive Competitive Research Fund Awards

Graduate students Paul Van Erp, of the Wiedenheft Lab, and Tatsuya Akiyama, of the Franklin Lab, have been awarded research support funds from the MSU Graduate School and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development as part of the Competitive Research Awards Program. View their research summaries below:

Summary:  Bacteria and archaea have evolved adaptive defense mechanisms called CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)-Cas (CRISPR-associated) systems to protect themselves against invading phages and plasmids. CRISPR-Cas systems store small pieces of invader DNA in the CRISPR array, which functions as a molecular memory bank. CRISPR-RNA (crRNA) molecules are derived from the memory bank and guide surveillance complexes to invading DNA. A sequence match between the crRNA-DNA marks the DNA for destruction. Discovered in the last decade, these defense mechanisms have been the focus of much research and have led to the development of new biotechnological tools. My research is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of RNA guided surveillance in the type I-E CRISPR-Cas system of Escherichia coli.

Summary: Pseudomonas aeruginosa forms biofilm and causes chronic infections in cystic fibrosis lung and chronic wounds. Biofilm-associated infections are a major concern for public health due to their high antibiotic resistance. Dormant subpopulation resides in nutrient and oxygen limited region of biofilms are highly antibiotic resistance, suggesting the importance of dormancy for persisting biofilmassociated infections. Dormant cells must maintain their cellular integrity during dormancy. We previously found that hibernation promoting factor (HPF) is important for the preservation of ribosome and maintenance of cell viability during starvation. In this study, we will determine the change in ribosome abundance and cell viability in subpopulations of cells in P. aeruginosa biofilms during starvation using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) followed by drop plating. In combination with antibiotic treatments, our findings will serve as a foundation to identify new therapeutic targets to eliminate biofilm-associated chronic infections.


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May 2015 - Two Graduate Students from the Fields Lab Receive ASM Travel Awards

Graduate students Laura Camilleri and Greg Krantz, both of the Fields Lab, were recently selected to receive the Travel Award from the American Society for Microbiology.  Laura and Greg will present their research in New Orleans at the 115th General Meeting of the ASMView their research summaries below:

Abstract:  Symbiosis is widespread throughout the biosphere with well-studied examples in and across all three domains of life.  In communities of bacteria and archaea, mutualism is typically referred to as syntrophy (“eating together”) whereby-products of one metabolism serve as substrates for another metabolism. The syntrophy between sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) and methanogenic archaea is of interest because these guilds both play crucial roles in many different anaerobic environments.  In the absence of sulfate as an electron acceptor and the addition of the hydrogenotrophic methanogen, Methanococcus maripaludis, the two cell types are interdependent via previously proposed product inhibition syntrophy, and cross feeding of by-products allows a cooperative syntrophic relationship to be established.  In monocultures, only D. vulgaris Hildenborough readily forms biofilm, and the topography of the biofilm is relatively flat and thin.  However, the co-culture biofilm is evenly interspersed with M. maripaludis, and is thicker and filled with topographical features such as ridges, spires, and valleys.  We have recently demonstrated that M. maripaludis exhibits taxis toward hydrogen, or hydrogenotaxis, as well as showing that biofilm helps optimize the carrying capacity of the syntrophic coculture.  In order to better understand the interactions between M. maripaludis and D. vulgaris Hildenborough, RNA-Seq was used to create a transcriptomic profile of the coculture biofilm as compared to the planktonic mono- and co- culture states.  Our results suggest that key steps in methanogenesis are down-expressed for M. maripaludis and electron transfer related genes are down-expressed for D. vulgaris Hildenborough.  Many of the up-expressed genes include hypothetical proteins but also include cell surface modifications, communication via small metabolites, N-cycling, and metal homeostasis.  This is in direct contradiction with results published for work done with similar coculture systems in the planktonic growth mode, thereby indicating that the biofilm growth mode is both phenotypically and physiologically unique most likely due to mass transport considerations inside and outside the biofilm.

Abstract: Microbially Induced Corrosion (MIC) is a major concern for industrial ferrous metal pipelines and can result in pipeline failure.  Sulfate Reducing Bacteria (SRB) have been implicated in contributing to MIC due to their production of corrosive H2S gas and elemental sulfur along with metal-microbe interactions.  This project focuses on the effects of electron donor limitation and electron acceptor limitation on biofilm physiology and corrosion rate on carbon steel versus stainless steel and glass surface materials.  Desulfovibrio alaskensis G20 was grown under steady-state conditions in sulfate-reducing biofilm reactors.  Batch cultures grown under EAL and EDL conditions had similar maximum growth rates, but differed significantly in final cell yields at 37C.  Under EAL conditions, biofilms on glass had elevated biomass levels, and higher protein levels were detected on 316 steel compared to 1018 steel. At later time points, the 1018 steel had an elevated carbohydrate to protein ratio.  Under EDL conditions, biofilms on glass had the highest protein levels; 316 and 1018 steel had similar biofilm protein levels.  Hexose-equivalents were similar for the three tested surfaces under EDL conditions and slightly elevated for 1018 steel compared to glass and 316 steel.  In addition, under EDL conditions, 1018 steel also had an elevated carbohydrate to protein ratio.  Differential corrosion rates were observed between electron donor limiting (EDL) and electron acceptor limiting (EAL) conditions on 1018 carbon steel and 316 stainless steel.  The results indicated that different ratios of respiration substrates contributed to altered rates of corrosion, and the difference in corrosion rates could not be explained solely by sulfide, acetate, or carbohydrate levels.  The presented results are the first report of increased mass loss under EDL conditions using a defined medium under steady-state conditions.


Dr. Flenniken at Microscope

May 2015 - Dr. Michelle Flenniken receives three grants for the study of honeybee health

Michelle Flenniken, Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology, and joint faculty member with the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, recently received three grants to advance her lab's research in the role of viruses and other pathogens in hive health. 

Student, AnneMarie Criddle, holding award

April 2015 - Undergraduate Student, AnneMarie Criddle, receives an Outstanding Oral Presentation Award

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology would like to congratulate AnneMarie Criddle, from the lab of Matthew Taylor, for her recognition at the 40th West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference for an Outstanding Oral Presentation in Microbiology. View her research summary below:

Coinfection is the ability of two viruses to infect the same cell, a situation required for recombination between the two viral genomes. HSV and its model system, Pseudorabies virus (PRV), have demonstrated exclusion of other herpes viruses by expressing glycoprotein D (gD) on the surface of infected cells. It was previously shown that viral exclusion of HSV by gD occurred between four and six hours post infection. Our aim was to use fluorescent expressing viruses to quantify viral exclusion at a cellular level and refine this exclusion time window.

Pig epithelial cells were infected with two fluorescent protein encoded viruses. Delaying the second inoculum allowed us to visualize when exclusion was occurring at a cellular level. Infected cells were imaged using an epifluorescent microscope and quantified using viral titering and fluorescent activated cell sorting. It was found that an exclusion event was occurring at two hours post infection of the initial inoculum. Supporting these results, the addition of cycloheximide showed an increase of the secondary inoculum, suggesting that immediate/early viral proteins are necessary. Future work involves investigating this early mechanism of exclusion using a gD null virus to determine if this viral exclusion mechanism is gD independent. 

Luke McKay

April 2015 - Postdoctoral Researcher, Luke McKay, receives NASA Fellowship

Luke McKay joined the lab of Eric Boyd earlier this year to study microbes that thrive in extreme environments.  The NASA Fellowship Award shows the implications of this field of research to provide clues into the origins of life on Earth, and how life may exist on other planets. 

Will McGuinness with children in lab goggles

April 2015 - Will McGuinness, of the Voyich Lab selected to present his research in Washington D.C.

Poster Title:  Propensity of Novel Staphylococcus aureus Bacteriophage Therapeutics in Conjunction with Irondoped Nanoparticles

Each April, the Council on Undergraduate Research hosts Posters on the Hill in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill. Approximately 60 students from all over the country are selected on a competitive basis, to present their research posters to invited guests such as Senators, Congressional Representatives, federal agency program officers, and the science press corps. Will McGuinness, a senior at MSU, was the sole student selected from the State of Montana.  

Dr. Ed Schmidt

March 2015 - Researchers from the lab of Dr. Ed Schmidt discover the important role of methionine in protecting liver cells.  

Researchers Justine Prigge and Sofi Eriksson, among others, from the lab for Dr. Schmidt published an article this month in Nature Communications looking into the important role of methionine as an antioxidant in the liver when other systems fail. MSU News spoke with Dr. Schmidt about the research and value of this discovery. 

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February 2015 - Brent Peyton of the Thermal Biology Institute featured in Science Friday article

MSU's Dr. Brent Peyton, of the Thermal Biology Institute and Dr. Joseph Shaw, of the Optical Technology Center, talk to Science Friday about what causes the brilliant colors in the famous Yellowstone thermal spring, Morning Glory Pool, and what it might have looked like before human influence.

Alayna Caffrey

January 2015 - Alayna Caffrey, from the lab of Dr. Josh Obar, discovers key to fighting pulmonary infection

Doctoral student, Alayna Caffrey, along with MSU researchers and co-authors Margaret (Peggy) Lehmann, Julianne Zickovich, Chritopher Watschke, Kimberly Hilmer and Dr. Josh Obar, published an important paper this week that looks at key traits for fighting fungal infection in the lungs. MSU News spoke with Alayna and Dr. Obar this week.

bat cave

January 2015 - Dr. Raina Plowright talks bats with The New York Times

Dr. Raina Plowright recently spoke with Natalie Angier of The New York Times about the amazing immune systems of bats, the role that bats play in spearing viruses, and their potential to give us clues into preventing disease in the future.

For further reading view Raina's recent publication on bat virus spillover in the November volume of the research journal Proceedings B.

Cover of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology

January 2015 - Dr. Al Jesaitis' research is featured on the cover of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology

View the current research of MSU faculty emeritus Dr. Al Jesaitis and fellow MSU researchers Jeannie Gripentrog, Connie Lord, and Marcia Riesselman in the current publication of the Journal of Leukosite Biology.  

Artists version of early earth

October 2014 - Dr. Eric Boyd to help lead $7 million NASA project looking into early life on earth

Eric Boyd, and the Rock-Powered Life team, for which he is the deputy director, have been awarded $7 million dollars as part of a NASA project that is dedicating $50 million dollars towards the study of the origins, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.  The nation wide Rock-Powered Life Team will be looking into microbes that are able to subsist off of the chemical energy that is released when rock and water interact at low temperatures. 

Mark Quinn in the lab

October 2014 - Dr. Mark Quinn interviewed by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Mark Quinn talks to Gail Schontzler, of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, about our department's recently awarded $5.4 million grant from the National Institute of Health for the study of infectious diseases.

cover of AEM magazine

October 2014 - Dr. Eric Boyd AEM publication

View the current research of Dr. Eric Boyd in the journal of Applied & Environmental Microbiology.  Learn about how microbial communities survive and thrive in subglacial habitats cut off from the outside world.


October 2014 - Fermentoberfest!

We are happy to announce: Fermentoberfest! The inaugural first-Friday Department of Microbiology and Immunology Social will take place on Friday, October 3 at the 406 Brewing Company / Wild Rye Distilling at 101 East Oak Street from 4:00 to 5:30. At 4:00, the brewers will give a tour of the brewery and distillery. This event (and subsequent first-Friday events) is envisioned as a means to further develop personal and professional relationships among the graduate students and faculty of the department. Please plan on attending!  Organized by: Eric Boyd, Ryan Jones, and Seth Walk.

Zoe Harrold inside a large ice cave

September 2014 - Zoe Harrold, of the Boyd Lab, featured in Seattle Times front page article

View this amazing photo essay on the current research of postdoctoral resident, Zoe Harrold, who works in the labs of Dr. Eric Boyd's and Dr. Mark Skidmore.

Cover of Science Magazine

September 2014 - Weidenheft Lab on the cover of Science Magazine

View the recent research coming out of Dr. Blake Weidenheft's lab from Ryan Jackson, Sarah Golden, Paul van Erp and Joshua Carter.

Researchers in the Weidenheft Lab have made a significant contribution to the understanding of a new field of DNA research, with the acronym CRISPR, that holds enormous promise for fighting infectious diseases and genetic disorders.

Dr. Mark Jutila in his office

July 2014 - Dr. Jutila named Department Head of Microbiology & Immunology

Dr. Mark Jutila, professor of immunology and infectious diseases, has been named Department Head for the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. 


Old picture of Lewis Hall

November 2013 - Microbiology and Immunology Departments to Merge

The Montana Board of Regents learned at its Nov. 22 meeting in Bozeman that the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education has approved MSU's request to merge the Department of Microbiology in the College of Letters and Science and the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases in the College of Agriculture. Supporters said the union will enhance teaching and research in biomedical and environmental microbiology, two of MSU’s major strengths.