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John N. Werner

John Werner image

Associate Professor of Biology



  • Education

    B.A., Luther College - Biology and Chemistry
    Ph.D., Arizona State University - Molecular and Cellular Biology
    Postdoctoral Research - Princeton University


    While it may be detrimental to my future at WLC to admit, I grew up in Minnesota rooting for all of the Minnesota sports teams including the Vikings. Despite moving all around the country for my education and employment, my loyalties have not changed. Given this steadfastness in support of these teams, I believe my allegiances for these teams is genetic and despite my thorough training in genetics and molecular biology, I have not found the specific gene that causes this or a way to change it. Therefore, I will accept your sympathy for this affliction and any talented players for my teams.


    • BIO 120 – Life Science
    • BIO 341 – Microbiology
    • BIO 354 – Immunology
    • BIO 360 – Genetics
    • BIO 433 – Molecular Biology
    • BIO 401 – Research Strategies I
    • BIO 402 – Research Strategies II
    • CHE 351 – Biochemistry II

    Research Interests

    Bacteria are everywhere and perform a variety of tasks that can be both beneficial and harmful to humans. They are necessary for making certain food products, aiding in human digestion, and they can be exploited for industrial purposes. Most commonly, however, bacteria are known for their ability to cause harmful infections in the human body. With the discovery and utilization of antibiotics in the 20th century, many thought bacterial infections would eventually become a thing of the past. Unfortunately, bacteria are becoming resistant to these antibiotics. To compound that fact, new antibiotics are becoming increasingly difficult to find and develop. Therefore, it is growing increasingly important to understand the bacterial mechanisms of antibiotic resistance and find alternate methods of controlling infections.

    My current research interests focus on viruses that infect bacteria (bacteriophages) and an antibiotic resistance mechanism in Escherichia coli. Bacteriophages were discovered in the early 20th century and almost immediately studied for their potential use as a treatment for bacterial infections in humans. Unfortunately, these studies were largely abandoned after the discovery of antibiotics. The increase in antibiotic resistance has made bacteriophage study very relevant again. My students and I isolate new bacteriophages from the wild and characterize their bacterial infection mechanisms.

    The E. coli antibiotic resistance complex, TolC-AcrAB, was a focus of my graduate studies at Arizona State University. The 2015 iGEM studied the TolC protein as a receptor for bacteriophage binding. My current research interests involve investigating whether the TolC protein from bacteria other than E. coli can function in E. coli and serve as bacteriophage receptors. This research is important for understanding how this antibiotic resistance mechanism works, developing safer ways of isolating bacteriophages that infect pathogenic bacteria, and studying bacterial evolution.

    While this is my current research focus, I have several other areas of interest as well. If you are interested in these fields or my specific research, please contact me or stop by my office. I am always looking for students to help me with this work.

    Scholarly Works

    Select Presentations

    August 2015 - “Rapid identification of coliphage membrane receptors using a gene deletion library”
    Molecular Genetics of Bacteria and Phages Conference, Madison, WI.

    September 2015 - “Project tolsee” – Presented by the WLC iGEM team
    2015 iGEM Jamboree, Boston, MA. (Gold Medal)

    May 2015 - “Effects of osmotic stress on the cytoskeletal protein MreB in Escherichia coli” – Presented by Steven Van Alstine
    American Society for Microbiology General Meeting, New Orleans, LA.

    October 2014 - “Sugar rush” – Presented by the WLC iGEM team
    2014 iGEM Jamboree, Boston, MA. (Bronze medal)

    September 2014 – “Discovery through genetics: New screens to answer old questions” – Invited speaker
    Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL.

    Select Publications

    Goley, E., Dye, N., Werner, J., Gitai, Z. and Shapiro, L. 2010. Imaging-based identification of a critical regulator of FtsZ protofilament curvature in Caulobacter. Mol Cell. 39(6):975-87.

    Ingerson-Mahar, M., Briegel, A., Werner, J., Jensen, G. and Gitai, Z. 2010. The metabolic enzyme CTP synthase forms cytoskeletal filaments. Nat Cell Biol. 12(8): 739-46.

    Werner, J. and Gitai, Z. 2010. High-throughput screening of bacterial protein localization. Methods Enzymol. 471:185-204.

    Werner, J., Chen, E., Guberman, J., Zippilli, A., Irgon, J. and Gitai, Z. 2009. Quantitative genome-scale analysis of protein localization in an asymmetric bacterium. PNAS. 106(19): 7858-63.

    Briegel, A., Ding, H., Li, Z., Werner, J., Gitai, Z., Dias, D., Jensen, R. and Jensen, G. 2008. Location and architecture of the Caulobacter crescentus chemoreceptor array. Mol Microbiol. 69(1): 30-41.

    Perry, G., Dominy, N., Claw, K., Lee, A., Fiegler, H., Redon, R., Werner, J., Villanea, F., Mountain, J., Misra, R., Carter, N., Lee, C. and Stone, A. 2007 Diet and the evolution of human amylase gene copy number variation. Nat Genet. 39(10): 1256-60.

    Charlson, E., Werner, J. and Misra, R. 2006. Differential effects of yfgL mutation on Escherichia coli outer membrane proteins and lipopolysaccharide. J Bacteriol. 188(20): 7186-94.

    Malinverni, J., Werner, J., Kim, S., Sklar, J., Kahne, D., Misra, R. and Silhavy, T. 2006. YfiO stabilizes the YaeT complex and is essential for outer membrane protein assembly in Escherichia coli. Mol Microbiol. 61(1): 151-64.

    Werner, J., Misra, R. 2005. YaeT (Omp85) affects the assembly of lipid-dependent and lipid-independent outer membrane proteins of Escherichia coli. Mol Microbiol. 57(5): 1450-9.

    Werner, J., Augustus, A., Misra, R. 2003. Assembly of TolC, a structurally unique and multifunctional outer membrane protein of Escherichia coli K-12. J Bacteriol. 185(22): 6540-7.


    • Member of the American Society for Microbiology