The Phoenix Laboratory

The Phoenix Laboratory is all about bacteria—identifying them in ecological communities, growing them, and using them as factories to generate large amounts of specific proteins, DNA, and other components. One of the lab’s most useful and underutilized features is the fermentor that is used to grow large batches of bacteria—up to 10 liters at a time. “It’s aerated or operated anaerobically, and pH- and dissolved oxygen-monitored,” says Anne Kane, the lab’s director. “For people doing protein expression, it provides 10 liters that are all induced at exactly the same time, and are grown under exactly the same conditions, so the bacteria are consistent throughout the batch.”

bacteriaThe lab is classified as biosafety level 2 (BSL-2), so it has the necessary facilities and trained personnel for working with bacteria of moderate potential hazard, such as Shigella, Salmonella, Neisseria, and Yersinia. However, one of the major current efforts is working with the various “good” bacteria that make up the intestinal microbiome. “The work on the healthy microbiota is not really culturing, but rather characterizing what is in a specimen,” says Kane. “We identify all the various bacteria in the specimen by deep sequencing.” The Phoenix Lab prepares the samples for sequencing, which is done at the Tufts University Core Facility, and then Kane assists investigators in the interpretation of the results. She can also help investigators plan aspects of research protocols involving bacteria.

Kane is especially proud of her “squeaky clean” method of purifying plasmids. She says the typical maxipreps for purifying these small DNA molecules can sometimes contain residual contaminants that can interfere with a DNA transfection protocol. If an investigator is having trouble doing a particular transfection, Kane suggests her ultra-clean cesium chloride gradient method as a solution. She can also provide a wide range of competent cells with a documented transformation efficiency.

The Phoenix Lab supports a broad section of the Tufts community. “I work with people in biology on the Medford campus, people in microbiology, immunology, neuroscience and physiology, the HNRCA [Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging], the MCRI [Molecular Cardiology Research Institute], GeoMedID [Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases], as well as people beyond the Tufts community,” says Kane. Products and services include support for microbiota research, competent cells, protein purification, microbial culture, plasmid preparation, and media preparation.

The Phoenix Laboratory is a fee-for-service core facility. It is located on the Tufts Health Sciences campus in the Tupper Research Building at 15 Kneeland Street, Boston.

For more information, please see http://www.tuftsmedicalcenter.org/Research/Phoenix_Lab or contact Anne Kane, akane@tuftsmedicalcenter.org, (617) 636-7611.