Peters Lab

Research Interests

Chromosome Integrity: Transposition and DNA replication. One of our areas of interest involves dissecting processes and protein/DNA interactions relevant to chromosome integrity. In this regard we are interested in the molecular mechanism that allows a discrete DNA element which can move within bacteria, called transposon Tn7, to recognize target sites associated with DNA replication. In addition to gaining insight into the regulation of a DNA recombination machine, this work with Tn7 will also advance our understanding of DNA replication and DNA repair. Interestingly, the ability of Tn7 to direct transposition into replicating DNA appears to allow it to recognize plasmids capable of moving between bacteria called conjugal plasmids. The ability of Tn7 to preferentially insert into plasmids capable of moving between cells would facilitate its dissemination between bacterial populations. Because Tn7 also encodes resistance to a number of antibiotics this work reveals a mechanism that could help account for the spread of drug resistance in bacteria.

Synthetic Biology: A second area of interest concerns developing new tools for extreme genome manipulation.  For decades molecular biologists have utilized a variety of tools to construct new genes and gene combinations on a small scale.  More recently scientists have begun to radically alter genomes and even construct complete chromosomes de novo in a process sometimes referred to as synthetic biology.  The best tools to carry out this process are developed from nature itself, were mobile genetic elements like bacteriophages, transposons, and plasmids have been self-assembling useful genetic combinations for millions of years.  We are leveraging our knowledge of how chromosomes naturally evolve with endogenous genetic elements to develop more efficient ways to engineer bacterial genomes for a variety of applications. 

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