Richard Losick, PhD

Maria Moors Cabot Professor of Biology

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Bacterial biofilm and Bacillus subtilis biology

Dr. Richard Losick’s laboratory investigates the mechanisms of bacterial biofilm formation and disassembly and applies this knowledge to antimicrobial development, clean water supply, protein and small molecule production, and other commercial opportunities; the lab also carries out studies of cell division and sporulation of Bacillus subtilis.

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Commercial Opportunities

The Losick laboratory focuses on Bacillus subtilis, a model organism for the Gram-positive bacteria, which include important pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus. B. subtilis is utilized around the world as a plant protectant, forming biofilms on roots to prevent pathogen infection. Understanding more about this species and how it forms biofilms will promote antimicrobial drug discovery as well as increase knowledge about drug resistant strains.

Dr. Losick’s studies of biofilms present commercial opportunities in multiple fields. Firstly, biofilms present a medical risk, as they are resistant to both antibiotics and host defenses, and they behave differently from a single bacterium. Bacterial biofilms are a major cause of persistent infections worldwide, so research revealing how to disassemble them plays an important role in potentially treating these infections. Secondly, in industry biofilms can cause water pipe corrosion, impacting irrigation and drinking water systems. Biofilms present in pipes can also deplete the chlorine used to treat and maintain high-quality drinking water. The studies being performed in the Losick laboratory are laying the groundwork for future therapeutics and industrial solutions related to biofilms.

Finally, B. subtilis is commonly used to produce proteins and small molecules. Therefore, the understanding the Losick group has gained about B. subtilis can facilitate this process, leading to more efficient production of the desired molecules.

D-Amino acids and biofilm disassembly:

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As biofilms age, nutrients become limiting and waste products accumulate, and biofilm disassembly is triggered. The Losick lab has recently found D-amino acid treatment causes the release of amyloid fibers that linked cells in the biofilm together and triggers biofilm disassembly. This fluorescence micrograph shows D-tyrosine causes the release of TasA fibers. See Kolodkin-Gal et al., Science 328, 627–629 (2010) for more details.

Current Research Interests
  • Investigating the mechanisms underlying biofilm formation and disassembly and apply this knowledge to other bacterial species as well.
  • Studying the machinery responsible for the localization of specific proteins within a Bacillus subtilis bacterium, particularly in relation to bacterial cell division.
  • Exploring the sporulation process, including gene expression, inter-spore signaling, and morphogenesis.
Notable Info

Richard Losick is instrumental in helping found the Boston Bacterial Meeting (BBM) and continues to be an extraordinarily supportive faculty sponsor. Every summer, the BBM brings together Boston-area researchers who are studying the biology of bacteria or archaea in either academic or industrial settings. With attendence now exceeding 400 researchers (representing over 75 academic labs and biotech companies), BBM offers an exciting cross-section of current microbiology research. For more information:

Research Expertise

The Losick laboratory focuses on Bacillus subtilis, a model organism for the Gram-positive bacteria, which include important pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus.  B. subtilis is utilized around the world as a plant protectant, forming biofilms on roots to prevent pathogen infection.  Understanding more about this species and how it forms biofilms will promote antimicrobial drug discovery as well as increase knowledge about drug resistant strains.

Losick’s studies of biofilms present commercial opportunities in multiple fields.  Firstly, biofilms present a medical risk, as they are resistant to both antibiotics and host defenses, and they behave differently from a single bacterium.  Bacterial biofilms are a major cause of persistent infections worldwide, so research revealing how to disassemble them plays an important role in potentially treating these infections.  Secondly, in industry biofilms can cause water pipe corrosion, impacting irrigation and drinking water systems.  Biofilms present in pipes can also deplete the chlorine used to treat and maintain high-quality drinking water.  The studies being performed in the Losick laboratory are laying the groundwork for future therapeutics and industrial solutions related to biofilms.

Finally, B. subtilis is commonly used to produce proteins and small molecules. Therefore, the understanding the Losick group has gained about B. subtilis can facilitate this process, leading to more efficient production of the desired molecules.