Contact Information


B.A., Biology and Chemistry, University of Delaware, 1982
Ph.D., Biological Sciences, University of Rochester, 1989
Postdoc, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, 1992

Research and Publications

Genetic Dissection of Prokaryotic Cytokinesis and Chromosome Segregation

My laboratory is interested in understanding the problem of how cells divide and how they faithfully segregate copies of their genomes. Our approach to this problem is to study cell division and chromsome segregation genes in a simple organism accessible to genetic manipulation. The organism I study is the filamentous soil bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor. This mycelial bacterium undergoes an elaborate cycle of cellular differentiation similar to that of certain filamentous fungi. During differentiation, aerial hyphal filaments are partitioned by extensive septation to form uninucleoid cells that further metamorphose into chains of spores.

In unicellular bacteria, cell division is required for growth and therefore is essential. However, my previous results demonstrate that septation is dispensable for vegetative growth of S. coelicolor, but still required for subdivision of aerial filaments during spore formation. Therefore, the advantage of using this system is that it is possible to isolate or construct mutants to analyze bacterial cytokinesis as a nonessential process using this filamentous bacterium while similar mutants would be lethal in unicellular organisms. I hope this approach will identify new genes involved in cell division, particularly those whose products are involved in imparting the positional information as to where the future sites of cell division will be.

Because of its complex life cycle, S. coelicolor offers an excellent system for studying regulation of morphological differentiation. My results suggest that cell division has been mainly co-opted for septation during spore formation in this organism. A second goal of my research is to analyze how cell division is regulated temporally and spatially such that it occurs synchronously in the aerial hyphae, the regions of the colony which are destined to become spores.


Ramos-Léon, F., M.J. Bush, J.W. Sallmen, G. Chandra, J. Richardson, K.C. Findlay, J.R. McCormick, and S. Schlimpert. 2021. A Conserved Cell Division Protein Directly Regulates FtsZ Dynamics in Filamentous and Unicellular Actinobacteria. eLife 10:e63387. doi: 10.7554/eLife.63387.

Cantlay, S., B.C. Sen, K. Flärdh and J.R. McCormick. 2021. Influence of Core Divisome Proteins on Cell Division in Streptomyces venezuelae ATCC 10712. Microbiology. 167:001015. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.001015.

Mintmier, B., J. McGarry, C. Sparacino-Watkins, J. Sallmen, K. Fischer-Schrader, A. Magalon, J.R. McCormick, J.F. Stolz, G. Schwarz, D. Bain, and P. Basu. 2018. Molecular Cloning, Expression and Biochemical Characterization of Periplasmic Nitrate Reductase from Campylobacter jejuni. FEMS Microbiology Letters. 365:fny151. doi: 10.1093/femsle/fny151.

Bennett, J.A., G.V. Kandell, S.G. Kirk and J.R. McCormick. 2018. Visual and Microscopic Evaluation of Streptomyces Developmental Mutants. Journal of Visualized Experiments. 139:e57373. doi: 10.3791/57373. Watch this Article on JoVE.

Santos-Beneit, F., D.M. Roberts, S. Cantlay, J.R. McCormick and J. Errington. 2017. A Mechanism for FtsZ-independent proliferation in Streptomyces. Nature Communications. 8:1378. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-01596-z.

Flärdh, K. and J.R. McCormick. 2017. The Streptomyces O-B One Connection: A Force within Layered Repression of a Key Developmental Decision. Molecular Microbiology. 104:695-699. (MicroCommentary)

Kolber, B.J., M. Konsolaki, M.P. Verzi, C.R. Wagner, J.R. McCormick and K. Schindler. 2014. Sex-specific differences in meiosis: real-world applications. CourseSource. 1:1-6.

McCormick, J.R. and K. Flärdh. 2012. Signals and Regulators that Govern Streptomyces Development. FEMS Microbiology Reviews. 36:206-231.

McCormick, J.R. 2009. Cell division is dispensable but not irrelevant in Streptomyces. Current Opinion in Microbiology. 12:689-698. (Cover Photograph)

Bennett, J.A., J. Yarnall, A.B. Cadwallader, R. Kuennen, P. Bidey, B. Stadelmaier and J.R. McCormick. 2009. Medium-dependent phenotypes of Streptomyces coelicolor with mutations in ftsI or ftsW. Journal of Bacteriology. 191:661-664.

Dedrick, R.M., Wildschutte, H. and J.R. McCormick. 2009. Genetic interactions of smc, ftsK and parB genes in Streptomyces coelicolor and their developmental genome segregation phenotypes. Journal of Bacteriology. 191:320-332.

Bennett, J.A., Aimino, R.M. and J.R. McCormick. 2007. Streptomyces coelicolor genes ftsL and divIC play a role in cell division, but are dispensable for colony formation. Journal of Bacteriology. 189:8982-8992.

Bentley, S.D., S. Brown, L.D. Murphy, D.E. Harris, M.A. Quail, J. Parkhill, B.G. Barrell, J.R. McCormick , R.I. Santamaria, R. Losick, M. Yamasaki, H. Kinashi, C.W. Chen, G. Chandra, D. Jakimowicz, H.M. Kieser, T. Kieser and K.F. Chater. 2004. SCP1, a 356 023 bp linear plasmid adapted to the ecology and developmental biology of its host, Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2). Molecular Microbiology. 51:1615-1628.

Grantcharova, N., W. Ubhayasekera, S.L. Mowbray, J.R. McCormick, and K. Flärdh. 2003. A missense mutation in ftsZ differentially affects vegetative and developmentally controlled cell division in Streptomyces coelicolor. Molecular Microbiology. 47:645-656.

Bennett, J.A. and J.R. McCormick. 2001. Two New Loci Affecting Cell Division Identified as Suppressors of an ftsQ-Null Mutation in Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2). FEMS Microbiology Letters. 202:251-256.

Schwedock, J., McCormick, J. R., Angert, E. R., Nodwell, J. R. and R. Losick. 1997. Assembly of the Cell Division Protein FtsZ into Ladder-Like Structures in the Aerial Hyphae of Steptomyces coelicolor. Molecular Microbiology. 25:847-858.

McCormick, J.R. and R. Losick. 1996. Cell Division Gene ftsQ is required for Efficient Sporulation but not Growth and Viability in Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2). Journal of Bacteriology. 178:5259-5301.

McCormick, J.R., E.P. Su, A. Driks and R. Losick. 1994. Growth and Viability of Streptomyces coelicolor Mutant for the Cell Division Gene ftsZ. Molecular Microbiology. 14:243-254.

McCormick, J.R., J.M. Zengel and L. Lindahl. 1994. Correlation of Translation Efficiency with the Decay of a lacZ mRNA in Escherichia coli. Journal of Molecular Biology. 239:608-622.

McCormick, J.R., J.M. Zengel and L. Lindahl. 1991. Intermediates in the Degradation of mRNA from the Lactose Operon of Escherichia coli. Nucleic Acids Research.  19:2767-2776.

Lindahl, L., R.H. Archer, J.R. McCormick, L.P. Freedman and J.M. Zengel. 1989. Translational Coupling of the Two Proximal Genes in the S10 Ribosomal Protein Operon of Escherichia coli. Journal of Bacteriology. 171:2639-2645.


National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences, 2012-2013

2000 President's Award for Faculty Excellence in Teaching

Outstanding Assessment Award of Biological Sciences Undergraduate Mentoring System, Duquesne University, 2014. (joint award with B. Kolber)

Pittsburgh Bacterial Meeting

PBM 2022 has been canceled due to the omicron variant of covid.

Every year, the Department of Biological Sciences hosts a one-day meeting to bring together the bacteriology community in the Pittsburgh and tri-state area. While Principal Investigators attend the conference, the focus is on student presentations.

PBM 2023 will be organized and hosted by Dr. Wook Kim and Dr. Joseph McCormick. Funding is generously provided by the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences and Fisher Scientific. Send inquiries to pbmFREEDUQUESNE.

Save the date: PBM 2023 will be held on March 4, 2023.