The hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus (Pf) grows optimally at 100°C by fermenting peptides and sugars. It also reduces elemental sulfur to hydrogen sulfide. From Pf we are purifying and characterizing a range of metal-containing, oxidoreductase-type enzymes and redox proteins that are involved in unusual catabolic pathways. In addition, all ORFs in the Pf genome (1.9 Mb) are being cloned and expressed in an NIH-funded structural genomics initiative with the goal of obtaining 3D structures on all Pf proteins. The function of all Pf ORFs are being assessed using DNA microarrays and proteomic approaches in conjunction with metabolic and physiological analyses.
X-ray structural biology, the mitochondrial inner membrane space transport system, structure based vaccine and therapeutic design, improved/automated methods for synchrotron SAD data collection and structure determination.
Biophysical analysis of metallobiochemical systems using X-ray absorption spectroscopy; systems biology approaches to discovery of transcriptional regulation of microbiological hydrogen production as part of an alternative energy project.
RNA-guided invader defense in prokaryotes: Archaea and bacteria (both pathogenic and beneficial) are constantly attacked and destroyed by viruses and other genome invaders. We are working to delineate a series of newly-identified RNA-mediated immune systems that protect prokaryotes from viruses and other invaders - the CRISPR-Cas systems. This exciting research is leading to new ways to strengthen beneficial microorganisms that produce food, pharmaceuticals and biofuels, to combat disease-causing bacteria, and to prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance.