Texas Tech University

Catherine Wakeman

Assistant Professor

Email: catherine.wakeman@ttu.edu

Phone: (806) 834-5825


  • Postdoc, Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology, Vanderbilt University (2011-2016)
  • Postdoc, Department of Biochemistry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (2010-2011)
  • Ph.D., Molecular Microbiology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (2009)
  • B.S., Biology, Louisiana Tech University (2004)

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Catherine Wakeman

Research interests

Microbial interactions during infection: During infection, invading pathogens experience various environmental stresses and are often found in polymicrobial communities. Within the various microenvironments of the human host, pathogens and commensals both compete and cooperate in order to combat the stresses experienced during infection. Our studies focus on Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus interactions because these pathogens often co-infect sites ranging from diabetic foot ulcers to the cystic fibrosis lung and therefore represent a substantial medical problem.  We hypothesize that cooperation between these organisms is occurring within select microenvironments sampled during infection. We seek to understand the specific mechanism underlying co-infection (for example, the repression of P. aeruginosa production of anti-microbial compounds), and to determine whether or not P. aeruginosa and S. aureus can act cooperatively within certain host microenvironments in order to exacerbate disease.

Cellular differentiation in biofilms: Biofilms are multicellular microbial communities that represent the most common lifestyle of many microorganisms. Biofilms can persist in a wide range of environments in part because they contain differentiated subpopulations of cells that serve defined roles in the microbial community to promote the overall health of the biofilm. Through collaborations with mass spectrometry experts at Vanderbilt University, we have identified a number of previously uncharacterized P. aeruginosa biofilm subpopulations via the application of a newly emerging technology known as MALDI imaging mass spectrometry. We hypothesize that these subpopulations exist in order to withstand environmental insults that P. aeruginosa encounters in one or more of the many niches known to be occupied by this opportunistic pathogen. We seek to determine the role of these subpopulations in biofilm architecture and survival/persistence in the presence of various environmental stressors.

Metalloregulation of bacterial physiology: Environmental metal fluctuation is one of the primary signals sensed by bacteria to assess entry into a new and challenging environment. This is especially true for pathogens entering the host environment as host-induced metal starvation is an innate immune response designed to limit the growth of invading microorganisms. We have previously shown that metal-limitation induced by the immune protein calprotectin promotes P. aeruginosa and S. aureus co-culture and that metal fluctuations within P. aeruginosa biofilms are responsible for much of the observed cellular differentiation within biofilm communities. We seek to determine the mechanisms by which metal levels are sensed in order to elicit these physiological responses.

Selected Publications

  • Varela, K., al Mahmud, H., Arman, H.D., Martinez, L.R., Wakeman, C.A., and Yoshimoto, F.K. (2022) Autoxidation of a C2-Olefinated Dihydroartemisinic Acid Analogue to Form an Aromatic Ring: Application to Serrulatene Biosynthesis. Journal of Natural Products. doi: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.1c1101.
  • Hill, B.M., Bisht, K., Atkins, G.R., Gomez, A.A., Rumbaugh, K.P., Wakeman, C.A., and Brown, A.M.V. (2021) Lysis-Hi-C as a method to study polymicrobial communities and eDNA. Molecular Ecology Resources. doi: 10.1111/1755-0998.13535.
  • Elmassry, M., Bisht, K., Colmer-Hamood, J., Wakeman, C.A., San Francisco, M., and Hamood, A. (2021) Malonate utilization by Pseudomonas aeruginosa affects quorum-sensing and virulence and leads to formation of mineralized biofilm-like structures. Molecular Microbiology. doi: 10.1111/mmi.14729.
  • Herrin, B., Islam, S., Rentschler, K, Pert, L., Kopanski, S., and Wakeman, C.A. (2021) Haem toxicity provides a competitive advantage to the clinically relevant Staphylococcus aureus small colony variant phenotype.doi: 10.1099/mic.0.001044.
  • Bisht, K., Moore, J.L., Caprioli, R.M., Skaar, E.P., and Wakeman, C.A. (2021) Impact of temperature-dependent phage expression on Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm formation. npj Biofilms and Microbiomes. doi: 10.1038/s41522-021-00194-8.
  • Al Mahmud, H., Baishya, J., and Wakeman, C.A. (2021) Interspecies metabolic complementation in cystic fibrosis pathogens via purine exchange. Pathogens. doi: 10.3390/pathogens10020146.
  • Baishya, J., Bisht, K., Rimbey, J.N., Yihunie, K.D., Islam, S., Al Mahmud, H., Waller, J.E., and Wakeman, C.A. (2021) The impact of intraspecies and interspecies bacterial interactions on disease outcome. Pathogens. doi: 10.3390/pathogens10020096.
  • Nafees, S., Rice, S., and Wakeman, C.A. (2020) Analyzing genomic data using tensor-based orthogonal polynomials with application to synthetic RNAs. Nucleic Acids Research Genomics and Bioinformatics. doi: 10.1093/nargab/lqaa101.
  • Bisht, K., Baishya, J., and Wakeman, C. A. (2020) Pseudomonas aeruginosa polymicrobial interactions during lung infection. Current Opinions in Microbiology. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2020.01.014.
  • Bisht, K. and Wakeman, C. A. (2019) Discovery and therapeutic targeting of differentiated biofilm subpopulations. Frontiers in Microbiology. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.01908
  • Baishya, J. and Wakeman, C.A. (2019) Selective pressures during chronic infection drive microbial competition and cooperation. npj Biofilms and Microbiomes. doi: 10.1038/s41522-019-0089-2.
  • Ayala, O.M., Wakeman, C.A., Pence, I.J., Gaddy, J.A., Slaughter, J.C., Skaar, E.P., and Mahadevan-Jansen, A. (2018) Drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus reveal distinct biochemical features with Raman microspectroscopy. ACS Infectious Diseases. doi: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.8b00029.
  • Ayala, M., Wakeman, C.A., Pence, I.J., O'Brien, C.M., Werkhaven, J.A., Skaar, E.P., and Mahadevan-Jansen, A. (2017) Characterization of bacteria causing acute otitis media using Raman microspectroscopy. Analytical Methods. 9:1864-1871.
  • Wakeman, C.A.*, Moore, J.L.*, Noto, M.J., Zhang, Y., Singleton, M.D., Prentice, B.M., Gilston, B.A., Doster, R.S. Gaddy, J.A., Chazin, W.J., Caprioli, R.M., and Skaar, E.P. (2016) The innate immune protein calprotectin promotes Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus interaction. Nature Communications. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11951. *These authors contributed equally to this work.
  • Shin, J.*, Wakeman, C.A.*, Goodson, J.R.*, Rodionov, D.A., Freedman, B.G., Senger, R.S., and Winkler, W.C. (2014) Transport of Magnesium by a Bacterial Nramp-Related Gene. PLoS Genetics 10(6):e1004429. *These authors contributed equally to this work.
  • Wakeman, C.A., Stauff, D.L., Zhang, Y., and Skaar, E.P. (2014) Differential activation of Staphylococcus aureus heme detoxification machinery by heme analogues. Journal of Bacteriology. 196: 1335-1342.
  • Wakeman, C.A., Goodsoon, J.R., Zacharia, V.M., and Winkler, W.C. (2014) An Assessment of the requirements for magnesium transporters in Bacillus subtilis. Journal of Bacteriology. 196:1206-1214.
  • Wakeman, C.A., Hammer, N.D., Stauff, D.L., Attia, A.S., Anzaldi, L.L., Dikalov, S.I., Calcutt, M.W., and Skaar, E.P. (2012) Menaquinone biosynthesis potentiates haem toxicity in Staphylococcus aureus. Molecular Microbiology. 86:1376-1392.
  • Wakeman, C.A. and Skaar, E.P. (2012) Metalloregulation of Gram-positive pathogen physiology. Current Opinion in Microbiology. 15:169-174.
  • Ramesh, A., Wakeman, C.A., and Winkler, W.C. (2011) Insights into metalloregulation by M-box riboswitch RNAs via structural analysis of manganese-bound complexes. Journal of Molecular Biology. 407:556-570.
  • Wakeman, C.A., Ramesh, A., and Winkler, W.C. (2009) Multiple metal-binding cores are required for metalloregulation by M-box riboswitch RNAs. Journal of Molecular Biology. 392:723-735.
  • Brautigam, C.A., Wakeman, C.A., and Winkler, W.C. (2009) Methods for analysis of ligand-induced RNA conformational changes. Methods in Molecular Biology. 540:77-95.
  • Wakeman, C.A. andWinkler, W.C. (2009) Analysis of the RNA backbone: structural analysis of riboswitches by in-line probing and selective 2'-hydroxyl acylation and primer extension. Methods in Molecular Biology. 540:173-91.
  • Wakeman, C.A. and Winkler, W.C. (2009) Structural probing techniques on natural aptamers. Methods in Molecular Biology. 535:115-33.
  • Dann, C.E.*, Wakeman, C.A.*, Sieling, C.L., Baker, S.C., Irnov, and Winkler, W.C. (2007) Mechanism of genetic control by a metalloregulatory RNA. Cell. 130:878-892. *These authors contributed equally to this work.
  • Wakeman, C.A., Winkler, W.C., and Dann, C.E. 3rd. (2007) Structural features of metabolite-sensing riboswitches. Trends in Biochemical Sciences. 32:415-424.
  • Gore, H.M., Wakeman, C.A., Hull, R.M., and McKillip, J.L. (2003) Real-time molecular beacon NASBA reveals hblC expression from Bacillus spp. in milk. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 311:386-390.

Department of Biological Sciences

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