Molecular Microbiology

Professor Simon J. Fosterim-s-f-06.jpg

Sheffield 222 4411

blank spaceCareer History

  • 1999 to date: Professor of Molecular Microbiology, University of Sheffield
  • 1993-2002: Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Sheffield
  • 1990-1993: J.G.Graves Medical Research Fellow, University of Sheffield
  • 1986-1990: Broodbank Fellow, University of Cambridge
  • 1984-1986: PhD, University of Cambridge
  • 1983-1984: PhD, University of Leeds
  • 1980-1983: BSc Microbiology, University of Liverpool
Research in my laboratory centres on 2 main themes associated with bacterial molecular physiology:

The pathogen Staphylococcus aureus

S. aureus is a major cause of death and disease in humans. The spread of antibiotic resistance (MRSA, VRSA) highlights its importance. Our research has taken a number of approaches to understand the pathogenesis of the organism and to develop new prophylactic and treatment regimes. Research is aimed at determining how S. aureus interacts with its host. In particular we have been determining the role of human innate defences in the control of S. aureus. We have also identified a number of potential novel targets to be exploited as vaccine components. The role and use of these for prophylaxis are the subject of current investigations.


Host:pathogen interaction: Fluorescently labelled S. aureus (yellow and blue) have been phagocytosed by a host macrophage. Scale bar 10μm.

Bacterial cell wall structure and function

The cell wall peptidoglycan is essential for the life of most bacteria and its synthesis is the target of such important antibiotics as penicillin and vancomycin. We are using atomic force microscopy and other super-resolution microscopy techniques to determine the architecture and dynamics of peptidoglycan across the bacteria. This has revealed a hitherto unexpected complexity leading to new models of cell wall growth and division.
Bacterial cell wall architecture: Atomic force microscopy reveals new features of bacterial cell wall peptidoglycan architecture during growth and division. Scale bar 0.5 μm.

Bacterial cell wall synthesis: Pattern of cell wall peptidoglycan synthesis as revealed by fluorescent vancomycin labelling and super-resolution fluoresence microscopy. A,C Stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM); B, Structured illumination microscopy (SIM). Bar 0.5μm.

Selected Recent Publications

Bottomley, A.L., Kabli, A.F., Hurd, A.F., Turner, R.D., Garcia-Lara, J. & Foster, S.J. (2014) Staphylococcus aureus DivIB is a peptidoglycan binding protein that is required for a morphological checkpoint in cell division. Molecular Microbiology 94, 1041-1064.

McVicker, G., Prajsnar, T.K., Williams, A., Wagner, N.L., Boots, M., Renshaw, S.A. & Foster, S.J. (2014) Clonal expansion during Staphylococcus aureus infection dynamics reveals the effect of antibiotic intevention. PLoS Pathogens 10(2):e1003959.

Turner, R.D., Hurd, A.F., Cadby, A., Hobbs, J.K. & Foster, S.J. (2013) Cell wall elongation mode in Gram-negative bacteria is determined by peptidoglycan architecture. Nature Communications 4, 1496-1505.

Prajsnar, T.K., Hamilton, R., Garcia-Lara, J., McVicker, G., Williams, A., Boots, M., Foster, S.J. & Renshaw, S.A. (2012) A privileged intraphagocyte niche is responsible for disseminated infection of Staphylococcus aureus in a zebrafish model. Cellular Microbiology 14, 1600-1619.

Wheeler, R., Mesnage, S., Boneca, I.G., Hobbs, J.K. & Foster, S.J. (2011) Super-resolution microscopy reveals cell wall dynamics and peptidoglycan architecture in ovococcal bacteria. Molecular Microbiology, 82, 1096-1109

Steele, V.R. Bottomley, A.L., Garcia-Lara, J., Kasturiarachchi, J. & Foster, S.J. (2011) Multiple essential roles for EzrA in cell division of Staphylococcus aureus. Molecular Microbiology, 80, 542-555

Turner, R.D., Ratcliffe, E.C., Wheeler, R., Golestanian, R., Hobbs, J.K. & Foster, S.J. (2010) Peptidoglycan architecture can specify division planes in Staphylococcus aureus. Nature Communications, 1(3), 1-9

Gill, M.R., Garcia-Lara, J., Foster, S.J., Smythe, C., Battaglia, G. & Thomas, J.A. (2009) A ruthenium(II) polypyridyl complex for direct imaging of DNA structure in living cells. Nature Chemistry. 1, 662-667.

Hayhurst, E.J., Kailas, L., Hobbs, J.K. & Foster, S.J. (2008) Cell wall peptidoglycan architecture in Bacillus subtilis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 105, 14603-14608.

Prajsnar, T.K., Cunliffe, V.T., Foster, S.J. & Renshaw, S.A. (2008) A novel vertebrate model of Staphylococcus aureus infection reveals phagocyte-dependent resistance of zebrafish to non-host specialized pathogens. Cellular Microbiology 10, 2312-2325.

Clarke, S.R., Mohamed, R., Bian, L., Routh, A.F., Kokai-Kun, J., Mond, J.J., Tarkowski, A. & Foster S.J. (2007) The Staphylococcus aureus surface protein IsdA mediates resistance to innate defenses of human skin Cell Host and Microbe 1, 199-212.