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Molecular Microbiology

TEM of Bacillus megaterium sporeResearch Overview

The Molecular Microbiology group study bacterial spores of the Bacillus and Clostridium genera, which are the most resilient cells observed in nature. Several species are notable human and animal pathogens, including Bacillus anthracis, Clostridium botulinum and Clostridium difficile, although most are harmless saprophytes.

We are particularly interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of spore germination, which dormant spores undergo when stimulated to return to the vegetative state. We are also interested in the composition and assembly of the spore coat and exosporium, and aim to define the structures and functions of the various proteins that form this primary protective barrier.

We use a range of approaches to gain insight to spore biology at the molecular level, including genetic, biochemical, crystallographic and advanced imaging techniques.

Overall, our objective is to consider fundamental insights to spore structure and physiology in the context of public health, food safety, counter-terrorism and environmental decontamination, and to determine how such information might then be applied to improve current capabilities in these sectors.

Enquiries concerning post-graduate research opportunities, industrial collaborations, or general information concerning the group's activities, should be directed to .

Group members

Graham Christie; David Bailey; Iris Batalha; Bahja Al-Riyami; Ke Xu Zhou; David Baynard; Henry Lin; Abhinaba Ghosh; Manja Neumann.

Past members

Işık Üstok; Julia Manetsberger; Srishti Gupta; Nilumi Withange; Richard Langford; Mohamed Y. Mohamed

Recent papers

Eijlander RT, Holsappel S, de Jong A, Ghosh A, Christie G, Kuipers OP. SpoVT: From Fine-Tuning Regulator in Bacillus subtilis to Essential Sporulation Protein in Bacillus cereus. Frontiers in Microbiology 2016;7:1607.


Al-Riyami B, Ustok FI, Stott K, Chirgadze DY, and Christie G. The crystal structure of Clostridium perfringens SleM, a muramidase involved in cortical hydrolysis during spore germination. Proteins 2016; DOI:10.1002/prot.25112.


Ustok, F. I., Chirgadze, D. Y., and Christie, G. (2015); Structural and functional analysis of SleL, a peptidoglycan lysin involved in germination of Bacillus spores. Proteins 83, 1787-1799


Manetsberger, J., Manton, J. D., Erdelyi, M. J., Lin, H., Rees, D., Christie, G., and Rees, E. J. (2015); Ellipsoid Localization Microscopy Infers the Size and Order of Protein Layers in Bacillus Spore Coats. Biophys J 109, 2058-2066


Manetsberger, J., Hall, E. A., and Christie, G. (2015); Plasmid-encoded genes influence exosporium assembly and morphology in Bacillus megaterium QM B1551 spores. FEMS microbiology letters 362