Biology PhD student Brandon Williams researches the mechanisms that control cell division in bacteria.
Williams works with renowned Stanford professor Lucy Shapiro, who pioneered a new field using a single-celled microorganism to study fundamental questions about developmental biology. With the freshwater bacterium Caulobacter crescentus as a model organism, Williams and his lab colleagues investigate the biological processes that control the cell cycle.
In particular, Williams studies proteolysis—the degradation of proteins in the cell. Cells contain proteins that prevent them from dividing. When conditions are right for reproduction, proteolysis occurs in the cells, degrading those “checkpoint” proteins and proceeding with cell division.
Ultimately, increased regulation of the cell cycle could help manage the spread of pathogenic microbes and lead to more effective antibiotics. And because the cell cycle in bacteria is remarkably similar to that in more advanced organisms, including mammals, Williams’s research could apply to the development of other medical treatments as well.