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Molecular Microbiology

Research 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.

Spore germination proteins
Enzymes and accessory proteins involved in spore germination. PDB entries (clockwise from top left) 4S3J, 5JIP, 4S3K and 5BOI

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; David Baynard; Abhinaba Ghosh; Manja Neumann; Amin Mustafa; Sina Schack; Yao Xiao

Past members

Işık Üstok; Julia Manetsberger; Srishti Gupta; Nilumi Withange; Richard Langford; Mohamed Y. Mohamed; Iris Batalha; Bahja Al-Riyami; Ke Xu Zhou; Henry Lin;

Select papers

Ghosh A, Manton JD, Mustafa AR, Gupta M, Ayuso-Garcia A, Rees EJ, Christie G. (2018). Proteins encoded by the gerP operon are localised to the inner coat in Bacillus cereus spores and are dependent on GerPA and SafA for assembly. Applied and Environmental Microbiology DOI:10.1128/AEM.00760-18.


Xu Zhou, K., Ionescu, A., Wan, E., Ho, Y. N., Barnes, C. H. W., Christie, G., and Wilson, D. I. (2018) Paramagnetism in Bacillus spores: Opportunities for novel biotechnological applications. Biotechnology & Bioengineering 115, 955-964


Batalha IL, Ke P, Tejeda-Montes E, Uddin S, van der Walle CF, Christie G. (2017). Dipicolinic acid as a novel spore-inspired excipient for antibody formulation. Int J Pharm 526, 332-338.


Al-Riyami B, Ustok FI, Stott K, Chirgadze DY, and Christie G. (2016)The crystal structure of Clostridium perfringens SleM, a muramidase involved in cortical hydrolysis during spore germination. Proteins 84, 1681-1689.