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Microbial Genomics Group

   Group Leader

   Dr Rafal Mostowy <>



Broadly speaking, our research is focused on improving our understanding of bacterial evolution using genomics and bioinformatics. This is important not only to have a better idea about the emergence of microbial biodiversity, but also to understand the medical implications of such evolution (e.g., in response to vaccines and antibiotics). 
Our specific focus is to provide insight to interactions between bacterial surface sugars and bacterial viruses called phages. Bacteria are very often coated with such sugar molecules, and phages have the ability to dismount them using highly optimised enzymes. Our group studies the interaction and co-evolution between these sugars and phages by combining genomics, bioinformatics, microbiology and structural biology. Our research has important medical implications as results of our studies will help us understand the potential of using molecular weapons derived from phages against bacterial infections which are difficult or impossible to treat with antibiotics.

Selected Publications

1. Mostowy RJ, Holt KE. Diversity-Generating Machines: Genetics of Bacterial Sugar-Coating. Trends Microbiol. 2018;26(12):1008-1021. doi:10.1016/j.tim.2018.06.006.
2. Mostowy RJ, Croucher NJ, De Maio N, et al. Pneumococcal Capsule Synthesis Locus cps as Evolutionary Hotspot with Potential to Generate Novel Serotypes by Recombination. Mol Biol Evol. 2017;34(10):2537-2554. doi:10.1093/molbev/msx173.
3. Mostowy R, Croucher NJ, Andam CP, Corander J, Hanage WP, Marttinen P. Efficient Inference of Recent and Ancestral Recombination within Bacterial Populations. Mol Biol Evol. 2017;34(5):1167-1182. doi:10.1093/molbev/msx066.
Croucher NJ, Mostowy R, Wymant C, Turner P, Bentley SD, Fraser C. Horizontal DNA Transfer Mechanisms of Bacteria as Weapons of Intragenomic Conflict. Barton NH, ed. PLoS Biol. 2016;14(3):e1002394. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002394.
4. Mostowy R*, Croucher NJ*, Hanage WP, Harris SR, Bentley S, Fraser C. Heterogeneity in the frequency and characteristics of homologous recombination in pneumococcal evolution. PLoS Genet. 2014;10(5):e1004300. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004300.
5. Mostowy R, Engelstädter J. The impact of environmental change on host-parasite coevolutionary dynamics. P R Soc B. 2011;278(1716):2283-2292. doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.2359.