Gemma Reguera Ph.D.

Gemma Reguera
Telephone: (517) 884-5401

Microbiology & Molecular Genetics

Associate Professor - Microbial Physiology/Genetics: Electron transfer and biofilm physiology; biotechnological applications, architecture and physiology.

6190 Biomedical Physical Sciences Building
East Lansing, MI 48824

Microbial Physiology/Genetics: Electron transfer and biofilm physiology; biotechnological applications, architecture and physiol


Ph.D. Microbiology, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Overview of Current Program:

Microbial adaptive responses to the environment and their biotechnological applications:

The Reguera lab studies the adaptive responses of microbes to their natural environment and exploits this knowledge to find novel biotechnological applications for microbial processes. Microbes have evolved to adapt to the environmental conditions of their particular ecosystem and respond to a myriad of changes and challenges in order to survive. Survival of the fittest rules. A major challenge in microbial research is how to reproduce those conditions in the laboratory in order to have a controlled environment to study microbial processes and behavior as they occur in nature. Research to date indicates that microbes may actually spend just a short fraction of their life as individual cells in a liquid environment (planktonic life). Rather, microbes preferentially live in association with surfaces living as part of complex communities known as biofilms. Bacterial biofilms provide bacteria with shelter and higher concentrations of nutrients. Being part of a biofilm community requires cooperation and all the members communicate and work synergistically to benefit the community as a whole. Because of the beneficial aspects of ‘communal' life, microbes compete to colonize surfaces and form biofilms. Our lab focuses on the study of bacterial interactions with surfaces and bacterial interactions and microbial processes that govern life within a biofilm. Our research does not stop here: we take this knowledge to the next level and find novel biotechnological applications for biofilm processes and key biofilm nanocomponents (such as proteins).

Current research in our lab focuses on how the bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens colonizes surfaces and lives as biofilms. Geobacter bacteria gain energy for growth by transferring electrons, which are metabolically generated inside the cell, to external electron acceptors such as metals and also to electrodes. This process shows great promise for applications in the environmental restoration of radioactive and toxic metals as well as in electricity generation from renewable sources. Geobacter bacteria face a major challenge when growing as biofilms: how to transfer electrons across multilayered communities. We are studying how protein filaments produced by G. sulfurreducens, known as pili, function as structural and electronic nanocables to ‘wire' biofilms. A main focus of our research is to identify other novel biofilm nanocomponents that participate in establishing and maintaining this electronic network. We use a combination of genetic, physiological, biochemical and electrochemical tools to study the function of these electronic nanocomponents. Through these experiments, we begin to explore the biotechnological applications of Geobacter's electronic assembly working closely with collaborators across many scientific disciplines.


Websites of Interest:

Link to Publications

Lab Web Site


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