Dr. John Werner (2012)
Assistant Professor of Biology


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

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 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, as we see more and more, 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 figure out how bacteria live and survive so that we can find new ways to counteract them.

I have always found the complexity of bacterial cells amazing. Though very small, the bacterial cell has thousands of proteins that must perform specific functions at precise locations and times for the bacterium to grow and divide. My research has focused on trying to identify the mechanisms by which bacteria maintain order in their cells. In graduate school I studied the pathway by which an antibiotic resistance mechanism assembles in Escherichia coli. As a postdoc, I utilized high-throughput methods to determine where hundreds of proteins reside inside the cell of Caulobacter crescentus. Most recently, I have been interested in characterizing the bacterial cytoskeletal proteins. Cytoskeletal proteins are necessary for cells to properly divide and maintain their shape. When these proteins do not function correctly cells become misshapen and many cellular processes are directly or indirectly disrupted.

These bacterial cytoskeletal proteins have the potential to be future antibiotic targets. Many of these proteins are essential for bacterial survival so disrupting them will kill the cells. There are also bacterial processes already known that target these proteins to slow down or stop growth. I am interested in better understanding the mechanisms these cytoskeletal proteins use to perform their functions. It is my hope that this information may lead to the production of new antibiotics or allow current antibiotics to become more effective.

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

Published Papers

  • 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.