Friday, August 2, 2013

Matt Gets Published! III

When I started my Ph.D. at BYU, in 2007, the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology [1] had a loose, unwritten rule that Ph.D. candidates needed to publish two scientific papers before receiving their degree—the first to prove you could do it and the second to prove that the first wasn't a fluke. My first publication towards my degree [2] concerned several plasmids (extra, but expendable, pieces of DNA carried by some bacteria) that interfered with the symbiosis between the soil bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti and it's legume host (plants in the genus Medicago, which includes alfalfa). My second paper towards my Ph.D. didn't actually appear in print until this month (even though I've already graduated [2] and moved to Madison, Wisconsin to work on a post-doc [3]). Since it was written and ready to sumbit, my Ph.D. committee felt I was ready to defend.

This paper, which appeared in the most recent issue of Journal of Bacteriology [4], deals with Sinorhizobium meliloti not as a symbiont, but as a host. In the laboratory we routinely use viruses that infect Sinorhizobium meliloti. Viruses that infect bacteria are called bacteriophages. I identified a protein in the membrane of Sinorhizobium meliloti that these viruses use to anchor themselves to the exterior of the bacterium before injecting their DNA. I also determined, with the help of my my co-authors, that this particular protein was essential. In other words, Sinorhizobium meliloti is unable to survive without it.


[1] See

[2] See my post Matt Gets Published! II.

[3] See my post Move to Wisconsin.

[4] You can see the abstract here (to read the full paper you have to have a subscription to Journal of Bacteriology or pay a one-time $25 fee to download the article).

Image attributions:

ΦM12 plaques on Sinorhizobium meliloti is by Ninjatacoshell, available atΦM12 Plaques in Sinorhizobium meliloti.JPG.

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