We develop and utilize genetic approaches to complex biological processes in bacteria. Our model system is Salmonella Typhimurium, for which the most sophisticated genetic methods have been developed and used to address fundamental biological mechanisms. The lab’s focus has been on the genetics of flagellum assembly, its coupled gene regulatory mechanisms and the site-specific recombination mechanism that results in flagellin antigenic variation.
Kelly Hughes received his Ph.D. training in microbial genetics with John Roth in the Department of Biology at the University of Utah. He did a postdoctoral fellowship with Mel Simon at Caltech where he characterized in vivo binding of the Salmonella Hin recombinase to its recombination sites. He made the discovery that Hin interacted with the DNA sites primarily throught minor groove interactions. Dr. Hughes then established his own lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, eventually achieving the position of Full Professor in the Department of Microbiology. Dr. Hughes' lab has focused on the regulation of flagellar gene expression as it is coupled to the assembly of the flagellum organelle. This work has elucidated novel mechanisms of gene regulation including secretion of a translation inhibitor and a secretion-substrate specificity switch catalyzed by a secreted, molecular ruler. Recently, the Hughes lab has begun investigation into the nature of the genetic code establishing an in vivo translation speedometer assay and demonstrating that synonymous codons are not neutral and that the code is more than triplet. Dr. Hughes has established assays to examine the role of codon context on translation speed in vivo.