Chuck Wimpee
Chuck Wimpee
Associate Professor
Molecular Biology and Evolution

M.S., Univ. of Georgia 1978
Ph.D., Univ. of California, Los Angeles 1984

Postdoctoral Fellow
Brookhaven National Laboratory
1984-1986

Office: Lapham S495
Phone: 414-229-6881
FAX: 414-229-3926
Email: cwimpee@uwm.edu
Vitae:

Research Interests

Molecular biology, evolution, and ecology of bacterial bioluminescence.
The ability to produce light is scattered but widespread in nature, having evolved separately a number of times in organisms as diverse as bacteria, fungi, dinoflagellates, and animals. The bacterial process is restricted to a phylogenetically narrow group in the Gamma Proteobacteria, primarily in the family Vibrionaceae. Five genes (luxA,B,C,D,and E, which are arranged in an operon) are required to bestow light-generating capability on bacteria. We are interested in the evolution and the regulation of the lux operon, and are carrying out comparative studies of lux gene organization and expression in several Vibrio and Photobacterium species.

Bacterial Colonies Bacterial Colonies with lux operon
These photos show bacterial colonies carrying a gene construct made by my students. These are E. coli cells carrying a plasmid with the lux operon from Vibrio orientalis. The cells carry a separate plasmid with a luxR gene (encoding a transcriptional activator) from Vibrio harveyi. The luxR gene is driven by a lac promoter from E. coli, which is inducible using isopropyl thiogalactoside (IPTG), a lactose analog. The colonies are photographed in room lighting (left) and by their own bioluminescent light (right).

Recent efforts have been focused on genotypic and phenotypic diversity of bioluminescent bacteria. Through DNA fingerprinting and gene sequencing studies, we are finding an extraordinary diversity of genotypes, even among very closely related strains. We also find a wide range of luminous intensities, and are interested in the mechanisms underlying these differences.

All lux operons characterized thus far are regulated by a quorum sensing (i.e., cell density-dependent) system. Although the quorum sensing story is still unfolding in several labs, the present understanding is that there are at least two quorum sensing systems regulating bacterial bioluminescence. We have become increasingly interested in the evolution of these regulatory systems, and are presently characterizing promoter regions and regulatory genes in Vibrio species, in an attempt to discern an evolutionary pattern.

In addition to the work on bacterial bioluminescence, I have a general interest in environmental microbiology, and have collaborated with other labs on various projects.


Selected Publications

O’Grady, E. and Wimpee, C. 2008. Mutations in the lux operon of natural dark mutants in the genus Vibrio. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 74: 61-66.

Budsberg, K, Wimpee, C. and Braddock, J. 2003. Isolation and identification of Photobacterium phosphoreum from an unexpected niche: Migrating salmon. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 69: 6938-6942.

Baker, B. J., D.P. Moser, B.J. MacGregor, S. Fishbain, M. Wagner, N.K. Fry, B. Jackson, N. Speolstra, S. Loos, K. Takai, B.S. Lollar, J. Fredrickson, D. Balkwill, T.C. Onstott, C.F. Wimpee, and D.A. Stahl. 2003. Related assemblages of sulphate-reducing bacteria associated with ultradeep gold mines of South Africa and deep basalt aquifers of Washington State. Environmental Microbiology 5: 267-277.

Maki, J.S., C.M. Schroeder, J.C. Bruckner, C. Wimpee, A. Wier, C.C. Remsen, C. Aguilar, and R.L. Cuhel. 2002. Investigating the microbial ecology of Yellowstone Lake. In: Proceedings of the 6th Biennial Scientific Conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. R.J. Anderson and D. Harmon, eds. Yellowstone Center for Resources and the George Wright Society.

Fode-Vaughan, K.A., C.F. Wimpee, C.C. Remsen and M.L.P. Collins. 2001. Detection of bacteria in environmental samples by direct PCR without DNA extraction. BioTechniques 31: 598-607.