Microbial Genomics

Rotem Sorek Prof. Rotem Sorek
Incumbent of the Rowland and Sylvia Schaefer Career Development Chair

Office: Meyer Building, Room 210A
Department of Molecular Genetics
Weizmann Institute of Science
Rehovot 76100, Israel
Tel: +972-8-934-6342
Fax: +972-8-934-4108
E-mail: rotem.sorek@weizmann.ac.il


Our lab of microbial genomics and systems biology focuses on two main research directions:

The interactions between bacteria and the viruses that infect them (phages). We study how phages attack bacteria, and how bacteria defend themselves against such attacks. We are interested in deciphering the molecular mechanisms providing bacteria with protection against phages, collectively known as the "immune system" of bacteria. Specifically, we study the CRISPR-Cas system, as well as new anti-phage defense systems discovered in our lab. Our studies found that important components of the human innate immune system have originated from bacterial defense systems that protect from phages. We also discovered that phages can use small-molecule communication in order to coordinate their infection dynamics - our lab studies the molecular mechanisms allowing such communication.

RNA-mediated regulation in microbes. We study the complex transcriptomes of bacteria, and how non-coding RNAs regulate key processes in the prokaryotic cell. We discovered how non-coding RNAs control antibiotics-resistance in human pathogens and in bacteria that belong to the human microbiome. We are also developing new technologies for accurate measurements of RNA in microbes, leading to multi-layered, single-base resolution expression maps of microbes and microbiomes.

Our research combines computational genomics techniques, systems biology, metagenomics, high-throughput sequencing technologies, and modern experimental approaches in microbiology and phage biology.

Current research directions in the lab include:

Selected Publications:

  • Bernheim A et al. Prokaryotic viperins produce diverse antiviral molecules. Nature, (2021).
  • Millman A et al. Bacterial retrons function in anti-phage defense Cell, (2020).
  • Cohen D et al. Cyclic GMP-AMP signaling protects bacteria against viral infection. Nature, (2019).
  • Doron S et al. Systematic discovery of antiphage defense systems in the microbial pangenome. Science, (2018).
  • Erez Z et al. Communication between viruses guides lysis-lysogeny decisions. Nature, (2017).
  • Dar D et al. Term-seq reveals abundant ribo-regulation of antibiotics resistance in bacteria. Science, (2016).
  • Levy A et al. CRISPR adaptation biases explain preference for acquisition of foreign DNA. Nature, (2015).