Welcome to the McCutcheon lab

Division of Biological Sciences, University of Montana

Integrative Microbial Biodiversity, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

We are interested in understanding the mechanisms that dictate interactions between animals and microbes, and the evolutionary outcomes of these associations. Our focus over the last several years has been on the nutritional bacterial symbionts of sap-feeding insects. These are very unusual bacteria, existing only in the cytoplasm of specialized host cells, and possessing the smallest and most compositionally extreme genomes in the entire bacterial domain. In some cases, these bacterial genomes rival--and in some case surpass--the level of genome reduction observed in cellular organelles (mitochondria and chloroplasts). We spend a lot of time trying to figure out how these bacteria get by with such small gene sets.

Because these bacteria cannot be cultured in the lab, genomic techniques are at the core of what we do. However, the lab takes a broad approach to the study of these interactions, and students and post-docs will have the opportunity to be involved in projects that involve methods from genomics, bioinformatics, microscopy, molecular biology, biochemistry, and phylogenetics, depending on their experience and interests.

Please look around to learn more about the lab, and feel free to email us with questions.