Cellular Organization and Behavior
in the Archaea Domain of Life
"The popular definition of life might be stated simply as that which is squishy"
- Gerald F. Joyce. The RNA World: Life Before DNA and Protein (1995)
The vast majority of cellular life we know of evolved to carry a rigid cell wall many times thicker than the cytoplasmic membrane. Among the exceptions, the Archaea are the group of organisms that are more consistently devoid of a cell wall. Curiously, Archaea are also the closest prokaryotic (no nucleus enveloping the genetic material) microorganisms to Eukaryotes. It is believed that this "squishy" feature of Archaea played a pivotal role in the emergence of Eukaryotic cells.
The Bisson Lab focuses on the intersection between microbial mechanobiology and evolution. We comprise a cross-disciplinary team of microbiologists, molecular biologists, cell biologists, and biophysicists. Our diverse (and welcoming) group allows us to be creative in implementing and developing new tools to understand how cells sense and self-organize in response to their environment.
Archaea (from Greek arkhaios, ‘primitive’) are unique microorganisms that equipped with genes previously thought to be present exclusive of bacteria or eukaryotes, summoning an exciting hybrid of molecular components that not only predated eukaryotes but might have played an essential role in their emergence.
The vast majority of cellular life we know of evolved to carry a rigid cell wall many times thicker than the cytoplasmic membrane. Among the exceptions, the Archaea are the group of organisms that are more frequently devoid of a cell wall. Curiously, Archaea are also the closest prokaryotic (no nucleus enveloping the genetic material) microorganisms to Eukaryotes. It is believed that this "squishy" feature of Archaea played a pivotal role in the emergence of Eukaryotic cells.
Maybe more importantly, Archaea need to respond to subtle physical cues and evolved creative ways to organize cargo in space and time. The Bisson Lab leverages such unique characteristics of these tiny microbes to learn fundamental physical and molecular principles that govern how cells self-organize to create and propagate patterns. We believe that these patterns are the code to understanding how evolution works across the limitless possible biological systems.
To break new ground, the Bisson Lab pioneers the development of new cell biology tools in order to explore a variety of projects.
Lacking a cell wall, archaea evolved molecular sensors that fire when the weight of the world is on their shoulders.
Immediately cells trigger the alarm and biochemical and physical responses orchestrate cellular reorganization across scales of space and times.
Panel at Cafe Nero. (Cambridge, MA)
Low-resolution tree of life representing the distribution and divergence between Bacteria, Eukaryotes, and Archaea. The different archaeal superphyla are represented in green. Illustration adapted from Eme et al., 2017
Developmental and Morphological Plasticity
Combining advanced microscopy, microfabrication, and genetics, we are now exploring the morphological secrets of more than 60 different species of archaea. How do cells without wall and canonical cytoskeleton can create, maintain and switch shapes?
Sub-Cellular Dynamics as a Proxy to Study Pattern Emergence
Using cutting-edge live-cell single-molecule tracking, we study a number of cellular processes, such as DNA replication, cell division, cell-cell interactions, and others.
The Mechanobiology of Archaea
Every squishy cell ever study has shown, in one or another, the ability to respond to specific mechanical perturbations. We are interested in exploring how archaeal cells respond to numberless physical challenges like confinement, shear, osmotic shocks, and temperature.