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James Berleman  |  Interests  |  Scholarship  

Interests

  • Socio-microbiology
    My research interest is in understanding how cells interact with each other. Myxococcus xanthus cells are uniquely interactive bacteria, working together to form multicellular structures, yet also dangerous to other bacteria as they lyse cells of other species, such as E. coli, and grow on the released macromolecules. Current projects: 1) Mapping microbial interfaces. We use Nano Initiator Mass Spectrometry (NIMS) to construct chemical maps of bacterial interactions on surfaces. Bacteria represent a broad range of biological and chemical diversity. Our ability to understand and harness this diversity is critical for studies ranging from biofuel production to new pharmaceuticals (In collaboration with Trent Northen and Musahid Ahmed at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab). 2) Social cooperation in bacteria. We our analyzing the ability of M. xanthus cells to work together in Social motility. Motility on soft surfaces requires Type IV pili, similar to twitching motility in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, but also requires a high cell density. We are examining the extracellular components required through genetic and biochemical analysis of the transition from single cells to a cohesive multicellular unit (In collaboration with Manfred Auer at http://www.lbl.gov/Lawrence Berkeley National Lab). 3) Social antagonism in bacteria. M. xanthus cells lyse bacteria of other species through a mechanism that is distinct from other soil microbes such as Streptomyces species. The mechanism remains largely uncharacterized but requires cell contact and may depend on targeted delivery of antibiotic compounds.
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