New EAM Member: Prof. Josep Casadesús


At the end of 2019, the European Academy of Microbiology (EAM) elected eleven new members from across different European countries and disciplines.

New EAM Members are:

This month, we spoke with Prof. Josep Casadesús at the University of Sevilla (Spain) about his research, and the profession of a microbiologist.

What are you currently researching?

My lab investigates non mutational mechanisms that generate phenotypic lineages in bacterial populations. Such mechanisms are diverse, ranging from the inheritance of relatively simple feedback loops to the formation of complex self-perpetuating DNA methylation patterns. We have recently described transcriptional control by DNA methylation in two Salmonella operons: opvAB, which controls lipopolysaccharide structure, and std, which encodes fimbriae and pleiotropic regulators of transcription. We are also interested in DNA methylation-independent switches that generate bacterial subpopulations resistant to bile salts, antibiotics, and other antibacterial agents.

What has been the most unusual or surprising finding in this line of research?

For many years, DNA methyltransferases of restriction-modification (R-M) systems were thought to perform genome protection only, and epigenetic control of transcription was attributed to orphan DNA methyltransferases. In the last decade, R-M DNA methyltransferases that control transcription have been found. Methylome analysis has also shown that orphan DNA methyltransferases are abundant in bacterial genomes. One may thus suspect that the known roles of DNA methylation in the prokaryotic world are just the tip of an intriguing iceberg.

What aspect of this research have you most enjoyed?

When I started working on transcriptional control by bacterial DNA methylation, the field was very small, and the few labs interested in bacterial epigenetics formed a little club. In the last six or seven years, I have been pleased to see a spectacular growth of the field and an increasing number of inspiring papers on bacterial DNA epigenomes.

What is in your opinion a scientific development microbiologists should keep an eye on?

There are many exciting developments going on. I especially keep an eye on microbiome analysis, phage therapy, single cell genomics and epigenetic modification of the eukaryotic genome driven by host-pathogen interactions.

What information, either related to the science or the professional path of a microbiologist, do you wish you had known at the beginning of your career?

I wish I had received a stronger mathematical education to be able to elaborate models. As research goes up from molecules to cells and from cells to higher order biological entities, mathematical modelling can be crucial to understand what is going on.

About Professor Josep Casadesús

Prof. Josep Casadesús

Josep Casadesús was born in Casserres, a small town in the county of Berguedà, Catalonia, Spain. He obtained his Ph.D. working on Rhizobium at the Estación Experimental del Zaidín, CSIC (Granada, Spain) under the supervision of José Olivares. As a postdoc, Casadesús received training in molecular biology at the University of Sussex (Falmer, England) working with Ray Dixon, and in bacterial genetics at the University of Utah (Salt Lake City, USA) working with John Roth. He has been visiting professor at the Biozentrum, Universität Basel (Switzerland) and at the Università degli Studi di Sassari (Sardinia, Italy). From 2005 to 2010, Casadesús was Ambassador of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) in Western Europe. Over the years, he has been an active editor and translator of books. Max Delbrück’s philosophical legacy “Mind from Matter?” is his favorite translation to Spanish. As a book editor, his most recent editorial task has been “Epigenetics of Infectious Diseases”, co-edited with Walter Doerfler. Casadesús is currently Professor of Genetics at the Universidad de Sevilla (Spain).

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About the EAM: The European Academy of Microbiology (EAM) is an initiative of the Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS) aimed at amplifying the impact and visibility of microbiology and microbiologists in Europe. EAM includes leading microbiologists in their own fields and is dedicated to promote excellence in microbiology through targeted programs and activities at the edges of the discipline, and communication to scientists, stakeholders and to the public.

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