The Kelly Lab

The Kelly Lab is interested in the genomics, physiology, enzymology and biotechnological potential of microorganisms that thrive in extreme environments, i.e., extremes in temperature, pressure, pH, ionic strength, etc. Our primary focus is on extremely thermophilic microorganisms, which are isolated from geothermal sites and volcanic regions and typically have optimal growth temperatures above 70°C. Because of the high temperatures at which these bacteria and archaea can be cultured, they produce highly thermostable enzymes that hold promise as biocatalysts. Metabolic pathways encoded in the genomes of extreme thermophiles have great potential for technologically important biotransformations. Molecular genetics systems have recently become available for several extreme thermophiles, thereby creating opportunities for metabolic engineering and synthetic biology at high temperatures.

Our research efforts are aimed at the interface between biology and engineering. We have addressed issues of fundamental importance in understanding the bioenergetics, biochemistry, physiology and genomics of extreme thermophiles. These studies have given rise to a number of technologically important developments related to bioenergy and biofuels, recovery of base, precious and strategic metals from ores, and industrial biocatalysis.


Research Focus

  • Plant Biomass Deconstruction by Extremely Thermophilic Caldicellulosiruptor species
  • Uranium Bioleaching by Extremely Thermoacidophilic Archaea
  • Post-Transcriptional Regulation in Extremely Thermoacidophilic Archaea by Toxins-Antitoxins
  • Metal Bio-oxidation Mechanisms by Extremely Thermoacidophilic Archaea
  • Metabolic Engineering of Extreme Thermophiles for Production of Fuels and Chemicals