William B. WhitmanProfessor of Microbiology
Professor Whitman received his B.S. from SUNY at Stony Brook in 1973and Ph.D. from the University of Texas in 1978. He was an NIH PostdoctoralFellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana before joining the Georgia faculty in 1982.
Autotrophic prokaryotes are a diverse assemblage of microorganisms which share the capacity of obtaining their carbon and energy for growth from inorganic compounds. They have achieved this capacity by a number of original and startlingly different biochemical adaptations. Autotrophic prokaryotes are found in all types of habitats and in all environmental extremes. Understanding the nature of these prokaryotes and their diversity is an exciting and important problem in microbiology.
The methanogens are strictly anaerobic autotrophs which obtain energy from the synthesis of methane gas. As autotrophs, they are unusual because they are commonly found associated with heterotrophic bacteria and protozoa. Methanogens are archaea, and they are distantly related to both the eucaryotes and bacteria. The methanogens are the only truly cosmopolitan archaea, and they are common in temperate environments of moderate temperature, pH, and salinity as well as some extreme environments. Presently, I am concerned with two problems dealing with methanogens. First, we are developinga genetic system. Like many of the major prokaryotic groups, virtually nothing is known about genetic transfer within the methanogens. Secondly, we are studying the carbon metabolism of the methanococci. We want to determine if the major biosynthetic pathways are similar to the bacterial pathways. These studies will provide insights into the early evolution of life on earth.
"Isolation of acetate auxotrophs of the methane-producing archaeon Methanococcus maripaludis by random insertional mutagenesis," Kim W.; Whitman,W.B.; Genetics. 1999, 152, 1429-1437.
"Expression vectors for Methanococcus maripaludis: overexpression of acetohydroxyacid synthase and beta-galactosidase," Gardner, W. L.; Whitman, W.B.; Genetics. 1999, 152, 1439-1447.
"Cysteinyl-tRNA formation: the last puzzle of aminoacyl-tRNA synthesis," Li, T.; Graham, D. E.; Stathopoulos, C.; Haney, P. J.; Kim, H.; Vothknecht, U.; Kitabatake, M.; Hong, K.; Eggertsson, G.; Curnow, A. W.; Lin, W.; Celic, I.; Whitman, W.; and Soll, D.; FEBS Lett.:   1999, 462, 302-306.
"Relationships of 16S rRNA sequence similarity to DNA hybridization in prokaryotes," Keswani, J.; and Whitman, W.B. Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 2001, 51, 667-678.
"Heterologous expression of archaeal selenoprotein genes directed by the SECIS element located in the 3' non-translated region," Rother, M.; Resch, A.; Gardner, W.L.; Whitman, W.B.; and Bock, A. Mol. Microbiol. 2001, 40, 900-908.
"Increasing activity of H2-metabolizing microbes lowers decompression sickness risk in pigs during H2 dives," Kayar, S.R., A. Fahlman, W.C. Lin; Whitman, W.B.; J. Appl. Physiol. 2000, 91, 2713-2719.
"Cysteinyl-tRNA synthetase is not essential for viability of the archaeon Methanococcus maripaludis," Stathopoulos, C.; Kim, W.; Li, T.; Anderson, I.; Deutsch, B.; Palioura, S.; Whitman, W.; and Soll, D. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2001, 98: 14292-14297.