John Beckmann

Assistant Professor

Entomology and plant pathology

 

education

Postdoc. Yale University, Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
Ph.D. University of Minnesota, Entomology
B.A. University of Minnesota, Physiology
B.A. University of Minnesota, Art

Professional Experience

Assistant Professor – Auburn University, Entomology and Plant Pathology

Professional Affiliations

American Society of Rickettsiology (ASR)
Entomological Society of America (ESA)
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

 

 

Research Activities

“We Build Toys. Some Toys Change the World.” – N.N.T.

John’s research focuses on mosquitoes and an obligate intracellular organism, Wolbachia. Wolbachia lives in insect gonads and sterilizes sperm. John’s goal is to develop novel biotechnology approaches to combat arthropod pests. John’s research has won multiple awards, grants, and patents and has been published in high impact journals such as Nature, Nature Microbiology, and Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. His research has been highlighted by popular news outlets including Wired, The Scientist, and Nature News and Views.

Cytoplasmic Incompatibility:
Wolbachia induce conditional sterility in insects called cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI). CI is used for direct suppression of insects via the sterile insect technique (SIT). SIT is the release of large numbers of sterile males to outcompete for mating with females. Ecologically, SIT drives down species-specific target populations and avoids pesticides. Endogenous CI is also a potent natural gene drive  capable of transforming insect populations. Our research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying CI.

Insect Transgenesis:
To develop novel biotechnologies for transforming wild insect populations our lab uses advanced molecular biology to build and implement genetic modification of insects. Our research focuses on mosquito and Drosophila transgenesis using transposon based genome integrations. We also utilize CRISPR/cas9 based nucleases to evaluate insect genetics.

Microbial Pathogens:
Our lab also studies bacterial effector proteins from obligate intracellular organisms that cause epidemic typhus, scrub typhus, and rocky mountain spotted fever. All these diseases are transmitted by arthropods. Understanding genes that facilitate microbial/host interactions in both humans and arthropod systems are of paramount importance.

Recent Courses taught

Biotechnology I
Medical Entomology

select publications

  • Beckmann, J. F., Ronau, J. A., Hochstrasser, M. A Wolbachia Deubiquitylating Enzyme Induces Cytoplasmic Incompatibility. Nature Microbiology 2017
  • LePage D. P., Metcalf J. A., Bordenstein S. R., On J., Perlmutter J. I., Shropshire J. D., Layton E. M., Funkhouser-Jones L. J., Beckmann, J. F., Bordenstein, S. Prophage WO Genes Recapitulate and Enhance Wolbachia-Induced Cytoplasmic Incompatibility. Nature 2017
  • Ronau, J. A., Beckmann, J. F. & Hochstrasser, M. Substrate specificity of the ubiquitin and Ubl proteases. Cell research 2016.
  • Beckman, J.F. Molecular Mechanism of Wolbachia Induced Cytoplasmic Incompatibilty PhD Thesis, University of Minnesota 2014.
  • Beckmann, J. F. & Fallon, A. M. Detection of the Wolbachia protein WPIP0282 in mosquito spermathecae: implications for cytoplasmic incompatibility. Insect biochemistry and molecular biology 43, 867-878 2013.
  • Beckmann, J. F., Markowski, T. W., Witthuhn, B. A. & Fallon, A. M. Detection of the Wolbachia-encoded DNA binding protein, HU beta, in mosquito gonads. Insect biochemistry and molecular biology 43, 272-279 2013.
  • Beckmann, J. F. & Fallon, A. M. Decapitation Improves Detection of Wolbachia pipientis (Rickettsiales: Anaplasmataceae) in Culex pipiens (Diptera: Culicidae) Mosquitoes by the Polymerase Chain Reaction. J Med Entomol 49, 1103-1108 2012.