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Locke Group

James Locke

Research Group Leader

Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge
University of Cambridge Bateman Street
Cambridge CB2 1LR

Office Phone: 01223 761110

Research Interests

My main research interest is to gain a quantitative understanding of how cells respond to environmental signals. To do this, I have found that it is critical to observe cellular behaviour at the single cell level as traditional approaches that take an average from a population can obscure heterogeneous responses and novel dynamics. For example, by examining B. subtilis gene expression at the single cell level, I have discovered that the alternative sigma factor sigB is activated in discrete stochastic pulses, a behaviour missed by previous bulk studies (see figure).

My lab will focus on developing a quantitative understanding of signal integration and gene circuit dynamics at the single cell level in Cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria, which rely on photosynthesis for metabolism, must anticipate day/night cycles, as well as respond to much faster environmental changes. By analyzing gene circuit dynamics at the single cell level in Cyanobacteria, I will develop fundamental insights into how cells respond to diverse, dynamically varying inputs over multiple timescales.

Key Publications

J Young*, JCW Locke*, MB Elowitz, Rate of environmental change determines stress response specificity, PNAS, 2013, In Press, *joint first authors.

JCW Locke*, J Young*, M Fontes, MB Elowitz, Stochastic pulse regulation in bacterial stress response, Science, 2011 Oct 21;334(6054):366-9, *joint first authors.

C Troein*, JCW Locke*, MS Turner, AJ Millar, Weather and seasons together demand complex biological clocks, Current Biology 2009 19(22):1961-4.*joint first authors.

Selected Recent Reviews

JCW Locke, MB Elowitz , Using movies to analyse gene circuit dynamics in single cells, Nature Reviews Microbiology 2009 7(5):383-92


Snapshot of B. subtilis colony containing a fluorescent reporter for sigB (green) growing under energy stress (60 µg/ml mycophenolic acid, MPA). Note pulsing (bright) versus non-pulsing (dim) cells.

Research supported by grants from: