John McCutcheon is an Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Montana in Missoula. His lab studies the diverse collections of microorganisms that are associated with insects, with particular focus on interactions that are intimate and stable across evolutionary time. Dr. McCutcheon is ultimately interested in the evolutionary forces that establish and maintain associations between organisms.
Most of his group studies the symbioses between sap-feeding insects and their intracellular bacterial symbionts. These symbioses rival organelle-host relationships in terms of cellular complexity and organismal integration, and this intimacy is reflected in the highly degenerate nature of the bacterial symbiont genomes. Indeed, all of the smallest bacterial genomes yet reported are from intracellular symbionts of sap-feeding insects. Because these symbionts cannot be cultured outside of their host insect, the McCutcheon lab relies heavily on comparative genomic and transcriptomic methods to study these systems. Much of the lab’s current focus is on understanding the role of the insect host, as well as any co-symbionts, in the functioning of bacterial symbionts with the most degenerate genomes.
Dr. McCutcheon received his PhD in Computational Biology from Washington University in St. Louis in 2006. He did postdoctoral work at the University of Arizona as an NIH-PERT fellow until 2010, after which he started his position at the University of Montana. Dr. McCutcheon was appointed an Associate of CIFAR’s Integrated Microbial Biodiversity Program in 2012.