research

The Garner lab investigates the molecular coordination of bacterial growth, that is how small molecules are able to deinfe and read out space so that prokaryotes can build and read out given cellular shapes. Both bacterial grwoth and division require multiple proteins working to form self-organizing systems, and our research shows that the action of these proteins is carefully regulated, linked to many other essential processes in the cell.

We work in many different organisms, including the gram-positive organism Bacillus subtilis as well as the high salt loving archaea Halobacterium Salinarum

One key process we study is that of cell division, which in both organisms involves the Z-ring, a complex of proteins that forms at the mid-cell to partition a cell into two cells. Below you can see Z-rings forming and dividing growing in B. subtilis cells. 

The organization of the Z-ring is not well understood, and we use biological imaging techniques to examine different proteins in the Z-ring, trying to tease apart the organizational hierarchy. In this 3-dimensional scan of bacillus cell division, the Z-ring is labelled in green and DNA is labelled in red.

Some of this work requires single-molecule tracking to determine the position and motion of individual proteins. Our tracking algorithms allow us to identify single molecules and precisely localize them over a period of time.

For the processes of elongation there is no distinct Z-ring. Instead, complexes of proteins move around the inside of the cell in, maintaining the cell wall by inserting and removing material to allow the cell to grow.

These processes are essential, and when they’re screwed up, cells die in interesting and hilarious ways.