Jo Handelsman

Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; Frederick Phineas Rose Professor; Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor

Research Summary

Research in the Handelsman lab focuses on understanding diversity in microbial communities and the role of microbial communities in infectious disease. In particular, we are interested in understanding a gut community that serves as a source of opportunistic pathogens, and the soil microbial community as a source of new genes and proteins. To study opportunistic pathogens, we developed a model system with the normal gut microbiota in lepidopteran insects. These normally benign bacteria kill the host under certain conditions, and our work aims to determine the mechanistic basis for host death. To explore microbial diversity, we use functional metagenomics to probe genetic and biochemical diversity in microbial communities. Metagenomics circumvents culturing, thereby capturing genetic information from organisms that cannot be cultured by standard methods, which represent the majority of the microbial world. Through this approach, we have discovered novel antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes, some of which encode bifunctional proteins.

Selected Publications

  • Broderick, N.A., K.F. Raffa and J. Handelsman. 2010. Chemical modulators of the innate immune response alter gypsy moth larval susceptibility to Bacillus thuringiensis. BMC Microbiology. In press.
  • Pribbenow, C., J. Sheridan, J. Winchell, D. Benting, J. Handelsman, and M. Carnes. 2010. The Tenure Process and Extending the Tenure Clock: The Experience of Faculty at One University. Higher Education Policy 23: 17-28.
  • Handelsman, J. 2009. Metagenetics: spending our inheritance on the future. Microbial Biotechnology 2(2): 138-139.
  • Broderick, N.A., C.J. Robinson, M.D. McMahon, J. Holt, J. Handelsman and K.F. Raffa. 2009. Contributions of gut bacteria to Bacillus thuringiensis-induced mortality vary across a range of Lepidoptera. BMC Biology 7: 11-20.
  • Klepzig, K.D., A. S. Adams, J. Handelsman, and K. F. Raffa. 2009. Symbioses: a key driver of insect physiological processes, ecological interactions, evolutionary diversification, and impacts on humans. Environ. Entomol. 38(1): 67-77.
  • Allen, H.K., K.A. Cloud-Hansen, J.M. Wolinski C. Guan, S. Greene, S. Lu, M. Boeyink, N.A. Broderick, K.F. Raffa, and J. Handelsman. 2009. Resident microbiota of the gypsy moth midgut harbor antibiotic resistance determinants. DNA and Cell Biology 28(3): 109-117.
  • Pfund, C., S. Miller, K. Brenner, P. Bruns, A. Chang, D. Ebert-May, A. Fagen, J. Gentile, S. Gossens, I. Khan, J. Labov, C.M. Pribbenow, M. Susman, L. Tong, R. Wright, W.B. Wood, R. Yuan, and J. Handelsman. 2009. Summer institute to improve university science teaching. Science 324: 470.

Edit Profile