Wiedenheft portrait

Blake Wiedenheft

Date: Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Time: 4 PM
Place: Procrastinator Theater, Strand Union Building

Title: A CRISPR Immune Response to Viruses that Infect Bacteria


Viruses that infect bacteria are the most diverse and abundant biological agents on the planet. In response to these pervasive viral predators, bacteria have evolved sophisticated adaptive immune systems that rely on Clusters of Regularly Interspersed Palindromic Repeats (CRISPRs). These repetitive elements rapidly expand in response to viral challenge by site-specifically integrating short fragments of the foreign DNA at one end of the evolving CRISPR. Small RNAs derived from CRISPR loci serve as guides that target nucleases to invading DNA targets. Our work aims to understand how these immune systems efficiently find and destroy DNA targets, and how they can be implemented as tools for human genome engineering.

About the speaker:

Dr. Wiedenheft is a native Montanan, receiving much of this education and training from the faculty at Montana State University. Dr. Wiedenheft received his Ph.D in the joint laboratories of professors Mark Young and Trevor Douglas at the Thermal Biology Institute, where his work focused on the viruses that infect microorganisms that thrive in boiling-acid (~80C, ~pH 3) environments. After completing his Ph.D in 2007, Dr. Wiedenheft joined professor Jennifer Doudna’s laboratory at UC-Berkeley as a Life Sciences Fellow of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Wiedenheft recently joined the faculty at Montana State University, where his research team is currently focused on understanding the mechanisms of CRISPR RNA-guided adaptive immunity and how these immune systems can be leveraged for new applications in medicine and biotechnology.