Professor Jeff Errington is Director of the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology at Newcastle University.
Professor Errington is an eminent cell and molecular biologist with an interest in fundamental biological problems, especially the cell cycle and cell morphogenesis in bacteria. He is a fellow of the Royal Society with a strong track record in the commercial exploitation of basic science.
Bacterial cell biology: fundamental studies on the bacterial cell cycle and cell morphogenesis
Cell division, chromosome segregation, and the control of cell shape are some of the most fundamental problems in biology.
This lab uses an array of biochemical, genetical and microscopic methods to study these problems in the bacterium Bacillus subtilis. B. subtilis is an extremely tractable experimental system, being the best characterized bacterium after E. coli. B. subtilis also offers the advantage of having two distinct cell cycle processes.
Impaired chromosome cutting and anucleate cell formation in a noc mutantWhen growing normally it elongates and divides medially to produce two identical daughter cells. However, when starved, it sporulates, and this differentiation process begins with a highly asymmetric cell division. A number of breakthroughs in understanding have emerged by taking advantage of this dual life style. The new field of bacterial cell biology, which emerged in the last 10 years or so through the development of methods for imaging proteins and DNA in bacterial cells, has also had a remarkable impact. In particular, it has led to the recognition that B. subtilis and most other bacterial cells have homologues of actin and tubulin - central players in the cytoskeleton, which had previously been thought to be a eukaryotic invention. The actin homologues, called MreB proteins, form helical filaments that run around the periphery of the cell following a helical path (Jones et al. 2001 Cell 104, 913-922). They seem to control cell shape by governing the synthesis and maturation of various cell wall components (Daniel and Errington 2003 Cell 113, 767-776). Other work is aimed at understanding the replication and segregation of chromosomes and how this is coordinated with cell division (e.g. Wu and Errington 2004 Cell 117, 915-925; Murray and Errington, 2008 Cell 135, 74-84; Gruber and Errington, 2009, Cell 137, 685-96).
We recently initiated a project to look at cell-wall deficient (L-form) bacteria (Leaver et al., 2009, Nature 457, 849-853). This work promises to open up exciting new opportunities to study problems ranging from persistence and resistance of bacterial pathogens, through to ideas on the evolution of the first free living cells.
Errington's lab is part of the new Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology in Newcastle. This is one of the world's largest groupings working on fundamental studies of tractable model bacteria. The Errington lab works particularly closely with the labs of Richard Daniel, Leendert Hamoen and Heath Murray.