Dr. Leigh received his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, and did his postdoctoral work at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Department of Biology.
Leigh’s lab combines an evolutionary perspective with a focused molecular approach. We work with Methanococcus maripaludis, a member of the methanogenic Archaea. The methanogens evidently originated early in the evolution of life. Today they occupy anaerobic habitats ranging from hydrothermal vents to animal digestive tracts, where most species grow on hydrogen and carbon dioxide and produce methane as a catabolic product. With excellent growth characteristics, effective genetic tools, and well-developed genome-based technologies, M. maripaludis has become the “E. coli of the Archaea”.
Projects in the lab focus on methanogenesis, nitrogen regulation, and systems biology. We recently identified a protein complex supporting electron bifurcation, a novel mechanism of energy coupling in methanogenesis. We discovered two novel mechanisms for the regulation of nitrogen fixation, one involving transcriptional repression and the other involving direct binding of regulatory proteins to nitrogenase.
Current work focuses on engineering a model methanogen for production of liquid biofuels.