Research in the Ward laboratory is conducted on bacteria, and focuses on evolutionary cell biology and ecology. We have a particular interest in the unusual endomembranes of planctomycete bacteria (especially Gemmata obscuriglobus), how these features evolved within the planctomycete lineage, and their functional consequences for the biology of the cell. While most of our recent work has been on the spatial organization of gene expression, we are also interested in other structural and functional aspects of the endomembranes.

Most of our ecology work is conducted within the human gastrointestinal tract, where we are examining the contribution of the gut microbiome to pediatric health and disease. Our primary focus is on Hirschsprung’s disease, a developmental defect of the enteric nervous system that often leads to enterocolitis, a serious inflammatory condition. Our recent work suggests that the primary developmental defect alters early microbial colonization of the gut, which may predispose these patients to enterocolitis. A future goal is to apply an improved understanding of these processes to the development of more effective clinical interventions.

Recent lab papers

Mahat, R., C. Seebart, F. Basile, and N.L. Ward. 2015. Global and targeted lipid analysis of  Gemmata obscuriglobus reveals the presence of lipopolysaccharide, a signature of the classical Gram-negative outer membrane. J Bacteriol pii: JB.00517-15. [Epub ahead of print]. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26483522

Kamneva, O.K., S. Poudel, and N.L. Ward. 2015. Proteins Related to the Type I Secretion System Are Associated with Secondary SecA_DEAD Domain Proteins in Some Species of Planctomycetes, Verrucomicrobia, Proteobacteria, Nitrospirae and Chlorobi. PLoS One 10(6):e0129066. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0129066. eCollection 2015. Link to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26030905

Gottshall, E., C. Seebart, J.C. Gatlin, and N.L. Ward. 2014. Spatially segregated transcription and translation in cells of the endomembrane-containing bacterium Gemmata obscuriglobus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA.  111(30):11067-72.