John N. Reeve

Rod Sharp Professor of Microbiology

B.Sc. Univ. of Birmingham, UK, 1968
Ph. D. Univ. of British Columbia, 1971
Postdoc. Univ. of Arizona, 1971-1973
Postdoc. Max Planck Inst., W. Berlin, 1974-1979

Campus Address: 
468 BioSci
Office Phone: 
Lab Phone: 


Archaeal gene expression

Archaea are prokaryotes, many of which have very unusual life-styles and unique biochemical abilities. Our research goal is to define and understand the molecular machinery and regulatory systems involved in gene expression in two thermophilic Euryarchaea, Thermococcus kodakarensis (T.k.) and Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus (M.t). 

Archaeal bio-energy production

T.k. is an anaerobic heterotroph that grows optimally at 85ºC by digesting starch, chitin or peptides and produces hydrogen. an anaerobic autotroph that grows optimally at 65ºC by consuming carbon dioxide and hydrogen and so produces methane.  Our experiments combine genetics and biochemistry to identify the molecular components, catalysts and regulation of these globally and commercially very important archaeal bio-energetic systems.

Archaeal histones and chromatin

The genomes of T.k. and M.t. are bound by archaeal histones, small DNA-binding proteins that share a common histone-fold structure with the histones that compact nuclear DNA in almost all Eukaryotes into nucleosomes and chromatin.  In contrast to the universal conservation of histones in Eukaryotes, there are no histones in Bacteria. Archaeal and eukaryotic histones apparently shared a common ancestor that evolved after the divergence of the bacterial and archaeal prokaryotic lineages. In Eukaryotes, histones dominate in regulating genome expression and provide the targets for epigenetic regulation of gene expression. Our research goal is to establish the in vivo functions of archaeal histones and their evolutionary and functional relationships to eukaryotic histones.


Historical favorites:

  • French SL, Santangelo TJ, Beyer AL &  Reeve JN. (2007) Transcription and translation are coupled in ArchaeaMol Biol Evol. 24, 893-5.
  • Sandman K, Krzycki JA, Dobrinski B, Lurz R &  Reeve JN. (1990) DNA binding protein HMf from the hyperthermophilic archaebacterium Methanothermus fervidus is most closely related to histones. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A  87, 5788-91.