Jessie Berta-Thompson

Research Affiliate
MIT Microbiology

jwthomps at mit dot edu

MIT 48-216
15 Vassar St
Cambridge, MA 02139


2008 A.B. in Molecular Biology, Certificate in Visual Arts, Princeton University


Research Interests:

I am interested in the evolution and ecology of wild populations and mechanisms of genomic change. I am currently studying how the marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus has evolved to its modern state of vast diversity and broad distribution across the world’s oceans. I’m working to reconstruct the complex evolutionary history of a stress response gene family, the high light inducible genes, using data from isolates, environmental DNA and single-cell genomes. These genes are a critical part of the cyanobacterial response to many stressors, but the particular complement of genes differs in each Prochlorococcus genome, suggesting selection for different sequence variants and copy number, depending on environmental conditions. I’ve also enjoyed working on questions related to light physiology, co-culture of Prochlorococcus with other bacteria and the isolation of new strains from the wild.



Berube PM, Biller SJ, Kent AG, Berta-Thompson JW, Roggensack SE, Roache-Johnson KH, Ackerman M, Moore LR, Meisel JD, Sher D, Thompson LR, Campbell L, Martiny AC and Chisholm SW. (2014) Physiology and evolution of nitrate acquisition in Prochlorococcus, The ISME Journal, in press.

Biller SJ, Berube PM, Berta-Thompson JW, Kelly L, Roggensack SE, Awad L, Roache-Johnson KH, Ding H, Giovannoni SJ, Rocap G, Moore LR and Chisholm SW. (2014) Genomes of diverse isolates of the marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus, Scientific Data 1:140034.

Kashtan N, Roggensack SE, Rodrigue S, Thompson JW, Biller SJ, Coe A, Ding H, Marttinen P, Malmstrom RR, Stocker R, Follows MJ, Stepanauskas R, and Chisholm SW. (2014) Single-cell genomics reveals hundreds of coexisting subpopulations in wild Prochlorococcus, Science 344, 416-420.

Sher D, Thompson JW, Kashtan N, Croal L and Chisholm SW. (2011) Response of Prochlorococcus ecotypes to co-culture with diverse marine bacteria, The ISME Journal 5, 1125-1132.