Dr. J. Brian Robertson

Assistant Professor

Dr. J. Brian Robertson
615-898-2066
Room 2053, Science Building (SCI)
MTSU Box 60, Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Degree Information

  • Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, TN (2009)
  • M.S., Murray State University, KY (2000)
  • B.S., Murray State University, KY (1996)

Areas of Expertise

bioluminescence, microbial time keeping, and biotechnology

I am interested in the mechanisms microbes use to tell time. To monitor biological rhythms in microbes, I transfer the "glow-in-the-dark" genes from fireflies and other bioluminescent organisms into the microbes so that their glow reveals their underlying rhythmic genetic regulation.

Publications

  • Krishnamoorthy A and Robertson JB. (2015) Dual-Color Monitoring Overcomes the Limitations of Single Bioluminescent Reporters in Fast-Growing Microbes and Reveals Phase-Dependent Protein Productivity during the Metabolic Rhythms of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Applied and environmental microbiology. 81(18): 6484-6495.
  • Yan Y, Jiang L, Aufderheide KJ, Wright GA, Terekhov A, Costa L, Qin K, McCleery WT, Fellenstein JJ, Ustione A, Robertson JB, Johnson CH, Piston DW, Hutson MS, Wiksw...
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  • Krishnamoorthy A and Robertson JB. (2015) Dual-Color Monitoring Overcomes the Limitations of Single Bioluminescent Reporters in Fast-Growing Microbes and Reveals Phase-Dependent Protein Productivity during the Metabolic Rhythms of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Applied and environmental microbiology. 81(18): 6484-6495.
  • Yan Y, Jiang L, Aufderheide KJ, Wright GA, Terekhov A, Costa L, Qin K, McCleery WT, Fellenstein JJ, Ustione A, Robertson JB, Johnson CH, Piston DW, Hutson MS, Wikswo JP, Hofmeister W, Janetopoulos C. (2014) A microfluidic-enabled mechanical microcompressor for the immobilization of live single- and multi-cellular specimens. Microscopy and Microanalysis; Feb;20(1):141-51.
  • Robertson JB, Davis CR, Johnson CH (2013) Visible light alters yeast metabolic rhythms by inhibiting respiration. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. Dec 24; 110(52):21130-5
  • Zhang Y, Xie Q, Robertson JB, Johnson CH. (2012) pHlash: a new genetically encoded and ratiometric luminescence sensor of intracellular pH. PLoS One, 7(8):e43072.
  • Robertson JB and Johnson CH. (2011) Luminescence as a Continuous Real-Time Reporter of Promoter Activity in Yeast Undergoing Respiratory Oscillations or Cell Division Rhythms. Methods in Molecular Biology. 734: 63-79, Humana Press.
  • Robertson JB, Zhang Y, Johnson CH. (2009) Light-emitting diode flashlights as effective and inexpensive light sources for fluorescence microscopy. Journal of Microscopy. 236:1-4
  • Stowers CC, Robertson JB, Ban H, Tanner RD, Boczko EM. (2009). Oscillating fermentor yield and enhanced product enrichment from periodic population structures. Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology. 156: 59-75.
  • Robertson JB, Stowers CC, Boczko E, Johnson CH. (2008). Real-time luminescence monitoring of cell-cycle and metabolic oscillations in yeast. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 105: 17988-93
  • Robertson JB, Zhu T, Nasreen S, Kilkenny D, Bader D, Dees E. (2008). CMF1-Rb interaction promotes myogenesis in avian skeletal myoblasts. Developmental Dynamics. 237: 1424-33.
  • Dees E, Robertson JB, Zhu T, and Bader D. (2006). Specific deletion of CMF1 nuclear localization domain causes incomplete cell cycle withdrawal and impaired differentiation in avian skeletal myoblasts. Experimental Cell Research; 312(16): 3000-14.
  • Dees E, Robertson JB, Ashe M, Pabon-Pena LM, Bader D, and Goodwin RL. (2005).LEK1 protein expression in normal and dysregulated cardiomyocyte mitosis. The Anatomical Record Part A, Discoveries in Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology; 286(1): 823-32.
  • Zimmerer EJ, Carneal J, Robertson JB, Ozturk M, Cardiff S, Luo M. (2000). Genome organization and phylogenetic distribution of a novel family of ancient murine endogenous proviruses with evidence for transposition-mediated proliferation. Biochemical Genetics; 38(7-8):253-65

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Research/Scholarly Activity

Life forms ranging from simple microbes to complex vertebrates have evolved timekeeping systems that allow coordination between their various life processes and their rhythmic environment of day-night cycles. Although there are some basic similarities of these biological clocks; bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals all seem to have their own version of timekeeping systems including separate genes, proteins, and mechanisms. Some species possess fully functioning clocks that tick at the same ra...

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Life forms ranging from simple microbes to complex vertebrates have evolved timekeeping systems that allow coordination between their various life processes and their rhythmic environment of day-night cycles. Although there are some basic similarities of these biological clocks; bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals all seem to have their own version of timekeeping systems including separate genes, proteins, and mechanisms. Some species possess fully functioning clocks that tick at the same rate regardless of their environment. Other organisms use an "hour glass" strategy where they measure the time since dawn or dusk but cannot keep time in a constant environment.

In a general sense, my lab is interested in the timekeeping strategies and mechanisms of microbes such as cyanobacteria, archaea, and yeast. Although these are relatively simple organisms, they are of great importance to industry as a source for biofuels and enzymes. Just as humans become more productive during certain parts of the day (and require rest/sleep at other times of the day), so too can microbes' productivities be rhythmic. Understanding the mechanisms that underlie these biological rhythms offers a way for the biotech industry to increase productivity and yield from these organisms.

Because microbes are relatively simple in their shape and activity, detecting rhythmic behavior from them can be challenging. One solution to this problem is to introduce a bioluminescent gene from fireflies called luciferase that allows the microbes to glow in the dark depending on when certain rhythmic genes are activated or repressed. In this way, light emitted from the microbes becomes an easily detected and measured output of their genetic activity. My lab focuses on the development of these bioluminescent reporters in microbes and applies them to answer questions about genetic regulation and rhythmic behavior in microscopic life.

Colonies of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae exhibiting bioluminescence from the firefly luciferase gene under the control of a yeast cell cycle promoter (POL1).

Common Topics and Techniques in my lab

  • Bioluminescence
  • Microbiology (non-pathogenic)
  • Biotechnology / Industrial Applications / Technology Development
  • Circadian Rhythms / Biological Clocks
  • Microbial Metabolism (respiration, fermentation)
  • Genetic Engineering / Transgenic Manipulation
  • Laboratory-Directed Evolution of Enzymes

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