UW-Madison Dept of Bacteriology
Pictures of HGB Heidi Goodrich-Blair

Professor of Bacteriology

4550 Microbial Sciences Building
1550 Linden Drive

Office: (608) 265-4537
Lab: (608) 265-4307
email icon for Goodrich-Blairhgblair@bact.wisc.edu

BioPublicationsLab Personnel
B.S., Biology, University at Albany, SUNY 1987
Ph.D., Molecular Biology, University of Albany, SUNY 1993
Postdoctoral Research: Microbial Genetics, University at Albany, SUNY; Harvard Medical School
Start and Promotion Dates
  • Assistant Professor: 1997
  • Associate Professor: 2003
  • Full Professor: 2009
Research Focus

Our research is aimed at understanding, at a molecular level, how microbes survive and flourish in the environments they occupy. Survival for many microbes is dependent upon their ability to interact with other organisms. To understand host-microbe interactions, our lab focuses on a gamma-proteobacterium, Xenorhabdus nematophila. This bacterium is a symbiont of the insect-infecting nematode Steinernema carpocapsae and is responsible for killing the insect larvae that this pair infects.

X. nematophila resides as a symbiont within a specialized intestinal vesicle of the insect-infecting nematode. Each of these two organisms requires the other to grow and reproduce, a process that occurs within the insect. The bacterium, X. nematophila, is the actual insect pathogen; it produces exo- and endo-toxins that can rapidly kill an insect host. In addition, once inside an insect host, X. nematophila expresses degradative functions such as proteases and lipases that convert insect host tissues into products that can be utilized by the nematode. Thus, X. nematophila is essential for both insect host killing and nematode development.

X. nematophila is a model for both positive and negative host-microbe interactions, knowledge of which will improve our ability to combat and/or utilize microorganisms to our own benefit. Furthermore, X. nematophila is part of a tripartite system (insect, nematode, and bacterium) that has potential use as an alternative to insecticides. Understanding the relationship between the members of this system will greatly improve their use in biocontrol. In our work we use molecular, genetic, and biochemical techniques to ask basic biological questions involving the interaction of X. nematophila with its hosts, examining the interaction from both the bacterium and host sides.

The results of our work will have an impact on our understanding of any system in which microbes interact with a eukaryotic host, including pathogenic and symbiotic associations. It will illustrate the mechanisms by which a single bacterium can form a beneficial association with one organism and a harmful interaction with another. In addition, our findings will have implications in the fields of biocontrol and microbial ecology and development.

  • 2006 CALS Pound Research Award
  • Microbiology 470: Microbial Genetics & Molecular Machines
  • Microbiology 710: Microbial Symbiosis
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Department of Bacteriology
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Microbial Sciences Building
1550 Linden Dr. Madison, WI 53706

Phone (608) 262-2914
Department Chair: Richard Gourse
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