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Michael McInerney, PhD

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Michael J. McInerney, Ph.D.

Professor of Microbiology

328 George Lynn Cross Hall
770 Van Vleet Oval
Norman, OK 73019
405-325-6050 (Office)


B. S, Northern Illinois University, 1973
M. S., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1977
Ph. D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1980
Postdoc, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Research areas:
Microbiology, Anaerobic microbiology, Environmental Science

Research interests:
We develop microbial processes to degrade wastes, improve water quality and produce energy. One research focus is syntrophic metabolism. Syntrophy is a key but poorly understood process in the global carbon cycle. We are using genomic, proteomic, transcriptomic and biochemical approaches to understand the physiology of two model syntrophic microorganisms, Syntrophomonas wolfei and Syntrophus aciditrophicus. Both require hydrogen- and/or formate-using microbes to degrade their growth substrates, either fatty or aromatic acids. We are interested in the protein complexes involved in hydrogen and formate production and ATP synthesis. We are also interested in how syntrophic consortia can grow on meager energy budgets and how syntrophic consortia are established and maintained.

Another area of research is the use of microorganisms to improve oil recovery. We showed that very low concentrations (50 to 100 mg/l) of lipopeptides made by members of the Bacillus subtilis-Bacillus licheniformis group recover entrapped oil from sandstone cores and that two Bacillus strains produced sufficient amounts of lipopeptides in an actual oil reservoir to recover oil. We now what to understand the structure and functional capabilities of oil field microbial communities to determine manipulation strategies to improve oil recovery and reduce detrimental side effects such as hydrogen sulfide production.

Other interests included subsurface microbiology, groundwater remediation, and microbe-metal interactions.

Relevant publications:

J. R. Sieber, M. J. McInerney, and R. P. Gunsalus. 2012. Genomic insights into syntrophy: the paradigm for anaerobic metabolic cooperation. Annu. Rev. Microbiol. 66:429–452

N. Youssef, D. R. Simpson, M. J. McInerney and K. E. Duncan. 2012. In-situ lipopeptide biosurfactant production by Bacillus strains correlates with improved oil recovery in two oil wells approaching their economic limit of production. International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation; doi: 10.1016/j.ibiod.2012.05.010.

C. S. Sheik, T. W. Mitchell, F. Zakria Rizvi, Y. Rehman. M. Faisal, S. Hasnain, M. J. McInerney, L. Krumholz, 2012. Exposure of Soil Microbial Communities to Chromium and Arsenic Alters their Diversity and Structure. PLoS ONE 7(6): e40059. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040059

C. M. Plugge, A. M. Henstra, P. Worm, A. H. Paulitsch, J. C.M. Scholten, A. Lykidis, A. L. Lapidus, E. Goltsman, E. Kim, E. McDonald, L. Rohlin, B. R. Crable, R. Gunsalus, A. J.M. Stams and M. J. McInerney. 2012. Complete genome sequence of Syntrophobacter fumaroxidans strain (MPOBT). Stand. Genomic Sci. (2012) 7:91-106 DOI:10.4056 /sigs.2996379.

M. Kim, H. Le, M. J. McInerney, and W. Buckel. 2013. Identification and characterization of Re-citrate synthase in Syntrophus aciditrophicus. J. Bacteriol. 195:1689-1696.