Seth Bordenstein , Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biological Sciences
Associate Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology

Lab Url:

Phone Number: 615.322.9087 (office), 615.322.9094 (lab)

Email Address:

Bordenstein, Seth's picture

Office Address   Mailing Address

U7211 MRB III, 465 21st Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37235

Vanderbilt University, Department of Biological Sciences, VU Station B, Box 35-1634, Nashville, TN 37235

Research Keywords
Genomics of Animal-Microbe Interactions, Microbial Ecology of Bacteriophage and Intracellular Bacteria, The Animal Microbiome and Innate Immunity, Symbiont-induced Speciation, Insect Vector Control, Lymphatic Filiarasis and River Blindness, Wolbachia

Research Specialty
Animal-microbe interactions, Microbiome, Bacterial genome evolution, Microbial ecology, Bacteriophage evolution and applications, Speciation by symbiosis, Hologenome, Filarial diseases

Research Description
We have broad interests in microbial-host interactions and the relative importance of the genome vs. microbiome in animal evolution and disease, including:

1. Does the aggregate genome and microbiome form a persistent evolutionary unit over time called the "hologenome"?
2. How often is DNA swapped between host-associated microbes?
3. How do animal genes regulate maternal transfer of bacterial symbionts?

Animal bodies are not self-sufficient. They require microbial custodians that provide security, digest food, and initiate repair and defense. Indeed, Darwin and the 20th century pioneers of evolutionary biology would have been astonished to see the countless roles that microbes play in shaping eukaryotic Life. Today, young systems of symbiotic bacteria are still formidable players in shaping biology, spurring on the evolution of incipient organelles and posing threats to the health of their hosts. The Bordenstein Lab studies microbial symbiosis because we are fascinated by the knowledge that symbiosis is as universal and essential to biology's fabric as genetics and evolution.

Graduate students and postdocs interested in joining the lab can contact Seth with a description of research interests and curriculum vitae.

The Bordenstein lab addresses the following three research topics:

1) Does the aggregate genome and microbiome form a persistent evolutionary unit over time called the "hologenome"? If one views the microbiome as an extension of the host's genome, as described within the hologenome theory, then it becomes intuitive that symbionts can be openly incorporated into a general theory of evolution that merges both genetics and symbiosis. In the Origin of Species, Darwin struggled with how continuous changes within a species lead to the emergence of discrete species. Molecular analyses have since identified nuclear genes and organelles that underpin speciation. In this project funded by the NSF Dimensions of Biodiversity program, we are exploring the gut microbiota as a third genetic component that spurs species formation. Our research over the last decade has elucidated that in addition to genes, the microbiome assists the formation of new species, moving the debate from whether microbial symbionts cause speciation to how common the process is.

2) How often is DNA swapped between host-associated microbes? Grants support various studies on the ecological and evolutionary conditions that shape the genomes of symbiotic bacteria and viruses. Why is this topic of general interest? Within a host, the genes in the bacterial and viral microbiota can vastly outnumber the host genes, yet we know little about the frequency at which genes swap between species of the microbiota. Our investigations reveal that there is frequent genetic flux between symbiotic coinfections inside a host, even in the most restrictive class of bacteria - the obligate intracellular bacteria. Comparative studies across hundreds of bacterial genomes coupled with molecular studies demonstrate that lateral gene transfer can be rampant in coinfected animal hosts.

3) How do animal genes regulate maternal transfer of bacterial symbionts? When a microbe occupies the niche of an animal or plant, a conflict or compromise ensues that is dependent upon the efficacy of the immune response. While higher eukaryotes have evolved a sophisticated response to interacting with microbial infections, all multicellular eukaryotes have an ancient weapon as their first line of defense: innate immune recognition. To address the interplay between innate immunity and obligate intracellular bacteria, we are interested in answering the following three questions: (1) How many genes are involved in variation in immunity to intracellular infection? (2) What is the distribution of phenotypic effects among these genes? and (3) What are the roles of dominance and epistasis?

Jernigan, KK, Bordenstein, SR. Ankyrin domains across the Tree of Life. PeerJ, 2, e264, 2014.

Romano-Keeler, J, Moore, DJ, Wang, C, Brucker, RM, Fonnesbeck, C, Slaughter, JC, Li, H, Curran, DP, Meng, S, Correa, H, Lovvorn, HN, Tang, YW, Bordenstein, S, George, AL, Weitkamp, JH. Early life establishment of site-specific microbial communities in the gut. Gut Microbes, 5(2), 192-201, 2014.

Brucker, RM, Bordenstein, SR. The capacious hologenome. Zoology (Jena), 116(5), 260-1, 2013.

Brucker, RM, Bordenstein, SR. The hologenomic basis of speciation: gut bacteria cause hybrid lethality in the genus Nasonia. Science, 341(6146), 667-9, 2013.

Duncan, SS, Valk, PL, McClain, MS, Shaffer, CL, Metcalf, JA, Bordenstein, SR, Cover, TL. Comparative genomic analysis of East Asian and non-Asian Helicobacter pylori strains identifies rapidly evolving genes. PLoS One, 8(1), e55120, 2013.

Funkhouser, LJ, Bordenstein, SR. Mom knows best: the universality of maternal microbial transmission. PLoS Biol, 11(8), e1001631, 2013.

LePage, D, Bordenstein, SR. Wolbachia: Can we save lives with a great pandemic. Trends Parasitol, 29(8), 385-93, 2013.

Brucker, RM, Bordenstein, SR. In vitro cultivation of the hymenoptera genetic model, Nasonia. PLoS One, 7(12), e51269, 2012.

Brucker, RM, Bordenstein, SR. Speciation by symbiosis. Trends Ecol Evol, 27(8), 443-51, 2012.

Brucker, RM, Bordenstein, SR. The roles of host evolutionary relationships (genus: Nasonia) and development in structuring microbial communities. Evolution, 66(2), 349-62, 2012.

Brucker, RM, Funkhouser, LJ, Setia, S, Pauly, R, Bordenstein, SR. Insect Innate Immunity Database (IIID): An Annotation Tool for Identifying Immune Genes in Insect Genomes. PLoS One, 7(9), e45125, 2012.

Duncan, SS, Valk, PL, Shaffer, CL, Bordenstein, SR, Cover, TL. J-Western forms of Helicobacter pylori cagA constitute a distinct phylogenetic group with a widespread geographic distribution. J Bacteriol, 194(6), 1593-604, 2012.

Metcalf, JA, Bordenstein, SR. The complexity of virus systems: the case of endosymbionts. Curr Opin Microbiol, , , 2012.

Bordenstein, SR, Bordenstein, SR. Temperature affects the tripartite interactions between bacteriophage WO, Wolbachia, and cytoplasmic incompatibility. PLoS One, 6(12), e29106, 2011.

Kent, BN, Funkhouser, LJ, Setia, S, Bordenstein, SR. Evolutionary genomics of a temperate bacteriophage in an obligate intracellular bacteria (Wolbachia). PLoS One, 6(9), e24984, 2011.

Kent, BN, Salichos, L, Gibbons, JG, Rokas, A, Newton, IL, Clark, ME, Bordenstein, SR. Complete bacteriophage transfer in a bacterial endosymbiont (Wolbachia) determined by targeted genome capture. Genome Biol Evol, 3, 209-18, 2011.

Chafee, ME, Funk, DJ, Harrison, RG, Bordenstein, SR. Lateral phage transfer in obligate intracellular bacteria (wolbachia): verification from natural populations. Mol Biol Evol, 27(3), 501-5, 2010.

Chafee, ME, Zecher, CN, Gourley, ML, Schmidt, VT, Chen, JH, Bordenstein, SR, Clark, ME, Bordenstein, SR. Decoupling of Host-Symbiont-Phage Coadaptations Following Transfer Between Insect Species. Genetics, , , 2010.

Gangwer, KA, Shaffer, CL, Suerbaum, S, Lacy, DB, Cover, TL, Bordenstein, SR. Molecular evolution of the Helicobacter pylori vacuolating toxin gene vacA. J Bacteriol, 192(23), 6126-35, 2010.

Kent, BN, Bordenstein, SR. Phage WO of Wolbachia: lambda of the endosymbiont world. Trends Microbiol, 18(4), 173-81, 2010.

Newton, IL, Bordenstein, SR. Correlations Between Bacterial Ecology and Mobile DNA. Curr Microbiol, , , 2010.

Bordenstein, SR, Paraskevopoulos, C, Dunning Hotopp, JC, Sapountzis, P, Lo, N, Bandi, C, Tettelin, H, Werren, JH, Bourtzis, K. Parasitism and mutualism in Wolbachia: what the phylogenomic trees can and can not say. Mol Biol Evol, 1(26), 231-241, 2009.

Ishmael, N, Hotopp, JC, Ioannidis, P, Biber, S, Sakamoto, J, Siozios, S, Nene, V, Werren, J, Bourtzis, K, Bordenstein, SR, Tettelin, H. Extensive genomic diversity of closely related Wolbachia strains. Microbiology, 155(Pt 7), 2211-22, 2009.

Bordenstein, SR. Evolutionary genomics: transdomain gene transfers. Curr Biol, 17(21), R935-6, 2007.

Bordenstein, SR. Discover the Microbes Within! The Wolbachia Project. Focus on Microbiology Education, 14(1), 4-5, 2007.

Bordenstein, SR, Werren, JH. Bidirectional incompatibility among divergent Wolbachia and incompatibility level differences among closely related Wolbachia in Nasonia. Heredity, 99(3), 278-87, 2007.

Ioannidis, P, Hotopp, JC, Sapountzis, P, Siozios, S, Tsiamis, G, Bordenstein, SR, Baldo, L, Werren, JH, Bourtzis, K. New criteria for selecting the origin of DNA replication in Wolbachia and closely related bacteria. BMC Genomics, 8, 182, 2007.

Lo, N, Paraskevopoulos, C, Bourtzis, K, O''Neill, SL, Werren, JH, Bordenstein, SR, Bandi, C. Taxonomic status of the intracellular bacterium Wolbachia pipientis. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol, 57(Pt 3), 654-7, 2007.

Sanogo, YO, Dobson, SL, Bordenstein, SR, Novak, RJ. Disruption of the Wolbachia surface protein gene wspB by a transposable element in mosquitoes of the Culex pipiens complex (Diptera, Culicidae). Insect Mol Biol, 16(2), 143-54, 2007.

Baldo, L, Bordenstein, S, Wernegreen, JJ, Werren, JH. Widespread recombination throughout Wolbachia genomes. Mol Biol Evol, 23(2), 437-49, 2006.

Baldo, L, Dunning Hotopp, JC, Jolley, KA, Bordenstein, SR, Biber, SA, Choudhury, RR, Hayashi, C, Maiden, MC, Tettelin, H, Werren, JH. Multilocus sequence typing system for the endosymbiont Wolbachia pipientis. Appl Environ Microbiol, 72(11), 7098-110, 2006.

Bordenstein, SR, Marshall, ML, Fry, AJ, Kim, U, Wernegreen, JJ. The tripartite associations between bacteriophage, Wolbachia, and arthropods. PLoS Pathog, 2(5), e43, 2006.

Paraskevopoulos, C, Bordenstein, SR, Wernegreen, JJ, Werren, JH, Bourtzis, K. Toward a Wolbachia multilocus sequence typing system: discrimination of Wolbachia strains present in Drosophila species. Curr Microbiol, 53(5), 388-95, 2006.

Bordenstein, S, Rosengaus, RB. Discovery of a novel Wolbachia super group in Isoptera. Curr Microbiol, 51(6), 393-8, 2005.

Bordenstein, SR, Reznikoff, WS. Mobile DNA in obligate intracellular bacteria. Nat Rev Microbiol, 3(9), 688-99, 2005.

Casiraghi, M, Bordenstein, SR, Baldo, L, Lo, N, Beninati, T, Wernegreen, JJ, Werren, JH, Bandi, C. Phylogeny of Wolbachia pipientis based on gltA, groEL and ftsZ gene sequences: clustering of arthropod and nematode symbionts in the F supergroup, and evidence for further diversity in the Wolbachia tree. Microbiology, 151(Pt 12), 4015-22, 2005.

Bordenstein, SR, Wernegreen, JJ. Bacteriophage flux in endosymbionts (Wolbachia): infection frequency, lateral transfer, and recombination rates. Mol Biol Evol, 21(10), 1981-91, 2004.

Reznikoff, WS, Bordenstein, SR, Apodaca, J. Comparative sequence analysis of IS50/Tn5 transposase. J Bacteriol, 186(24), 8240-7, 2004.

Bordenstein, SR. Symbiosis and the Origin of Species. In Insect Symbiosis, 2, 283-304, 2003.

Bordenstein, SR, Fitch, DH, Werren, JH. Absence of wolbachia in nonfilariid nematodes. J Nematol, 35(3), 266-70, 2003.

Bordenstein, SR, Uy, JJ, Werren, JH. Host genotype determines cytoplasmic incompatibility type in the haplodiploid genus Nasonia. Genetics, 164(1), 223-33, 2003.

Wernegreen, JJ, Degnan, PH, Lazarus, AB, Palacios, C, Bordenstein, SR. Genome evolution in an insect cell: distinct features of an ant-bacterial partnership. Biol Bull, 204(2), 221-31, 2003.

Bordenstein, SR, O''Hara, FP, Werren, JH. Wolbachia-induced incompatibility precedes other hybrid incompatibilities in Nasonia. Nature, 409(6821), 707-10, 2001.

Bordenstein, SR, Drapeau, MD, Werren, JH. Intraspecific variation in sexual isolation in the jewel wasp Nasonia. Evolution Int J Org Evolution, 54(2), 567-73, 2000.

Bordenstein, SR, Werren, JH. Do Wolbachia influence fecundity in Nasonia vitripennis. Heredity, 84 ( Pt 1), 54-62, 2000.

Bordenstein, SR, Werren, JH. Effects of A and B Wolbachia and host genotype on interspecies cytoplasmic incompatibility in Nasonia. Genetics, 148(4), 1833-44, 1998.

Postdoctoral Position Available

Postdoctoral Position Details
Postdoc available in Bioinformatics and Host-Microbe Interactions.

The Bordenstein laboratory at Vanderbilt University seeks postdoctoral applicants to study patterns of genome evolution that shape invertebrate-microbe interactions. Efforts will include computational analyses of full-genome-sequences and fine-scale analyses of molecular evolution, as well as some molecular lab work. The primary project will examine evolutionary forces shaping genetic variation in the tripartite symbiosis of invertebrates, Wolbachia bacteria, and their bacteriophages. Sources of genomic data will span next generation sequencing, Sanger sequencing, and microarrays. Contact Seth by email with your specific interests, a curriculum vitae, and references.

Updated Date

Vanderbilt University is committed to principles of equal opportunity and affirmative action.
Back to Faculty List | Biology Home | Vanderbilt University
Copyright 2002, Educational Technology, Biomedical Research Education & Training
Last Modified: October 12, 2004 by
[ ]