Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology



  Seth Bordenstein, Ph.D.



Associate Professor

Dept. of Biological Sciences

Dept. of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology



Contact Information



Office Location:
MRB III, U7211;  

Phone: 615-322-9087

Lab Phone:  615.322.9094

E-mail:   s.bordenstein@Vanderbilt.Edu


Lab URL:



US Mailing Address:
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Department of Biological Sciences
VU Station B #35-1634
2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37235-1634


Shipping Address for Packages:

Seth Bordenstein

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine


465 21st Ave. South

Nashville, TN 37232




Research Keywords



Systems biology of animal-microbe interactions, Microbiome, Maternal microbial transmission, Bacterial and viral genome evolution, Origin of species, Antibiotics, Horizontal gene transfer, Wolbachia



Research Description



Welcome to the Bordenstein laboratory!

We ask non-linear questions to probe the rules of symbiosis, evolution, and their inseperable connections. Key questions that guide our science include:

1. What is the role of the microbiome in the origin of species?
2. Can viruses hack host-microbial symbioses to spread across the tree of life?
3. How does evolution inform the discovery and development of new antibiotics?
4. What is the relative importance of vertical and environmental microbial transmission in animals?

News & Events (Follow on Twitter @Symbionticism)

March 2015 - People Behind The Science Podcast with Seth | Seeing Science and Symbiosis Through the Lens of an Evolutionary Microbiologist

February 2015 - Congrats to Daniel LePage for earning a NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant

January 2015 - Tandem-Repeat Domains Across the Tree of Life | New publication at PeerJ

December 2014 - Seth chats with Naked Scientists on antibiotic gene transfer across the tree of life and bioprospecting Archaea.

December 2014 - New publication at PeerJ by Daniel LePage et al. PeerJ link The relative importance of DNA methylation and Dnmt2-mediated epigenetic regulation on Wolbachia densities and cytoplasmic incompatibility.

November 2014 - Life's extremists may be an untapped source of antibacterial drugs. Vanderbilt Research News






Jernigan, KK, Bordenstein, SR. Tandem-repeat protein domains across the tree of life. PeerJ, 3, e732, 2015

Flynn, CR, Albaugh, VL, Cai, S, Cheung-Flynn, J, Williams, PE, Brucker, RM, Bordenstein, SR, Guo, Y, Wasserman, DH, Abumrad, NN. Bile diversion to the distal small intestine has comparable metabolic benefits to bariatric surgery. Nat Commun, 6, 7715, 2015

van Opstal, EJ, Bordenstein, SR. MICROBIOME. Rethinking heritability of the microbiome. Science, 349(6253), 1172-3, 2015

Bordenstein, SR, Theis, KR. Host Biology in Light of the Microbiome: Ten Principles of Holobionts and Hologenomes. PLoS Biol, 13(8), e1002226, 2015

Stilling, RM, Bordenstein, SR, Dinan, TG, Cryan, JF. Friends with social benefits: host-microbe interactions as a driver of brain evolution and development. Front Cell Infect Microbiol, 4, 147, 2014

Jernigan, KK, Bordenstein, SR. Ankyrin domains across the Tree of Life. PeerJ, 2, e264, 2014

Romano-Keeler, J, Moore, DJ, Wang, C, Brucker, RM, Fonnesbeck, C, Slaughter, JC, Li, H, Curran, DP, Meng, S, Correa, H, Lovvorn, HN, Tang, YW, Bordenstein, S, George, AL, Weitkamp, JH. Early life establishment of site-specific microbial communities in the gut. Gut Microbes, 5(2), 192-201, 2014

Bordenstein, SR. Genomic and cellular complexity from symbiotic simplicity. Cell, 158(6), 1236-7, 2014

Metcalf, JA, Jo, M, Bordenstein, SR, Jaenike, J, Bordenstein, SR. Recent genome reduction of Wolbachia in Drosophila recens targets phage WO and narrows candidates for reproductive parasitism. PeerJ, 2, e529, 2014

LePage, DP, Jernigan, KK, Bordenstein, SR. The relative importance of DNA methylation and Dnmt2-mediated epigenetic regulation on Wolbachia densities and cytoplasmic incompatibility. PeerJ, 2, e678, 2014

Metcalf, JA, Funkhouser-Jones, LJ, Brileya, K, Reysenbach, AL, Bordenstein, SR. Antibacterial gene transfer across the tree of life. Elife, 3, 2014

Funkhouser, LJ, Bordenstein, SR. Mom knows best: the universality of maternal microbial transmission. PLoS Biol, 11(8), e1001631, 2013

Duncan, SS, Valk, PL, McClain, MS, Shaffer, CL, Metcalf, JA, Bordenstein, SR, Cover, TL. Comparative genomic analysis of East Asian and non-Asian Helicobacter pylori strains identifies rapidly evolving genes. PLoS One, 8(1), e55120, 2013

Brucker, RM, Bordenstein, SR. The capacious hologenome. Zoology (Jena), 116(5), 260-1, 2013

Brucker, RM, Bordenstein, SR. The hologenomic basis of speciation: gut bacteria cause hybrid lethality in the genus Nasonia. Science, 341(6146), 667-9, 2013

LePage, D, Bordenstein, SR. Wolbachia: Can we save lives with a great pandemic. Trends Parasitol, 29(8), 385-93, 2013

Brucker, RM, Bordenstein, SR. In vitro cultivation of the hymenoptera genetic model, Nasonia. PLoS One, 7(12), e51269, 2012

Metcalf, JA, Bordenstein, SR. The complexity of virus systems: the case of endosymbionts. Curr Opin Microbiol, 2012

Brucker, RM, Bordenstein, SR. The roles of host evolutionary relationships (genus: Nasonia) and development in structuring microbial communities. Evolution, 66(2), 349-62, 2012

Brucker, RM, Funkhouser, LJ, Setia, S, Pauly, R, Bordenstein, SR. Insect Innate Immunity Database (IIID): An Annotation Tool for Identifying Immune Genes in Insect Genomes. PLoS One, 7(9), e45125, 2012

Brucker, RM, Bordenstein, SR. Speciation by symbiosis. Trends Ecol Evol, 27(8), 443-51, 2012

Duncan, SS, Valk, PL, Shaffer, CL, Bordenstein, SR, Cover, TL. J-Western forms of Helicobacter pylori cagA constitute a distinct phylogenetic group with a widespread geographic distribution. J Bacteriol, 194(6), 1593-604, 2012

Kent, BN, Funkhouser, LJ, Setia, S, Bordenstein, SR. Evolutionary genomics of a temperate bacteriophage in an obligate intracellular bacteria (Wolbachia). PLoS One, 6(9), e24984, 2011

Bordenstein, SR, Bordenstein, SR. Temperature affects the tripartite interactions between bacteriophage WO, Wolbachia, and cytoplasmic incompatibility. PLoS One, 6(12), e29106, 2011

Kent, BN, Salichos, L, Gibbons, JG, Rokas, A, Newton, IL, Clark, ME, Bordenstein, SR. Complete bacteriophage transfer in a bacterial endosymbiont (Wolbachia) determined by targeted genome capture. Genome Biol Evol, 3, 209-18, 2011

Gangwer, KA, Shaffer, CL, Suerbaum, S, Lacy, DB, Cover, TL, Bordenstein, SR. Molecular evolution of the Helicobacter pylori vacuolating toxin gene vacA. J Bacteriol, 192(23), 6126-35, 2010

Chafee, ME, Zecher, CN, Gourley, ML, Schmidt, VT, Chen, JH, Bordenstein, SR, Clark, ME, Bordenstein, SR. Decoupling of Host-Symbiont-Phage Coadaptations Following Transfer Between Insect Species. Genetics, 2010

Newton, IL, Bordenstein, SR. Correlations Between Bacterial Ecology and Mobile DNA. Curr Microbiol, 2010

Chafee, ME, Funk, DJ, Harrison, RG, Bordenstein, SR. Lateral phage transfer in obligate intracellular bacteria (wolbachia): verification from natural populations. Mol Biol Evol, 27(3), 501-5, 2010

Kent, BN, Bordenstein, SR. Phage WO of Wolbachia: lambda of the endosymbiont world. Trends Microbiol, 18(4), 173-81, 2010

Bordenstein, SR, Paraskevopoulos, C, Dunning Hotopp, JC, Sapountzis, P, Lo, N, Bandi, C, Tettelin, H, Werren, JH, Bourtzis, K. Parasitism and mutualism in Wolbachia: what the phylogenomic trees can and can not say. Mol Biol Evol, 1(26), 231-241, 2009

Ishmael, N, Hotopp, JC, Ioannidis, P, Biber, S, Sakamoto, J, Siozios, S, Nene, V, Werren, J, Bourtzis, K, Bordenstein, SR, Tettelin, H. Extensive genomic diversity of closely related Wolbachia strains. Microbiology, 155(Pt 7), 2211-22, 2009

Ioannidis, P, Hotopp, JC, Sapountzis, P, Siozios, S, Tsiamis, G, Bordenstein, SR, Baldo, L, Werren, JH, Bourtzis, K. New criteria for selecting the origin of DNA replication in Wolbachia and closely related bacteria. BMC Genomics, 8, 182, 2007

Bordenstein, SR. Evolutionary genomics: transdomain gene transfers. Curr Biol, 17(21), R935-6, 2007

Bordenstein, SR, Werren, JH. Bidirectional incompatibility among divergent Wolbachia and incompatibility level differences among closely related Wolbachia in Nasonia. Heredity, 99(3), 278-87, 2007

Lo, N, Paraskevopoulos, C, Bourtzis, K, O''Neill, SL, Werren, JH, Bordenstein, SR, Bandi, C. Taxonomic status of the intracellular bacterium Wolbachia pipientis. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol, 57(Pt 3), 654-7, 2007

Sanogo, YO, Dobson, SL, Bordenstein, SR, Novak, RJ. Disruption of the Wolbachia surface protein gene wspB by a transposable element in mosquitoes of the Culex pipiens complex (Diptera, Culicidae). Insect Mol Biol, 16(2), 143-54, 2007

Bordenstein, SR. Discover the Microbes Within! The Wolbachia Project. Focus on Microbiology Education, 14(1), 4-5, 2007

Paraskevopoulos, C, Bordenstein, SR, Wernegreen, JJ, Werren, JH, Bourtzis, K. Toward a Wolbachia multilocus sequence typing system: discrimination of Wolbachia strains present in Drosophila species. Curr Microbiol, 53(5), 388-95, 2006

Bordenstein, SR, Marshall, ML, Fry, AJ, Kim, U, Wernegreen, JJ. The tripartite associations between bacteriophage, Wolbachia, and arthropods. PLoS Pathog, 2(5), e43, 2006

Baldo, L, Bordenstein, S, Wernegreen, JJ, Werren, JH. Widespread recombination throughout Wolbachia genomes. Mol Biol Evol, 23(2), 437-49, 2006

Baldo, L, Dunning Hotopp, JC, Jolley, KA, Bordenstein, SR, Biber, SA, Choudhury, RR, Hayashi, C, Maiden, MC, Tettelin, H, Werren, JH. Multilocus sequence typing system for the endosymbiont Wolbachia pipientis. Appl Environ Microbiol, 72(11), 7098-110, 2006

Bordenstein, SR, Reznikoff, WS. Mobile DNA in obligate intracellular bacteria. Nat Rev Microbiol, 3(9), 688-99, 2005

Bordenstein, S, Rosengaus, RB. Discovery of a novel Wolbachia super group in Isoptera. Curr Microbiol, 51(6), 393-8, 2005

Casiraghi, M, Bordenstein, SR, Baldo, L, Lo, N, Beninati, T, Wernegreen, JJ, Werren, JH, Bandi, C. Phylogeny of Wolbachia pipientis based on gltA, groEL and ftsZ gene sequences: clustering of arthropod and nematode symbionts in the F supergroup, and evidence for further diversity in the Wolbachia tree. Microbiology, 151(Pt 12), 4015-22, 2005

Bordenstein, SR, Wernegreen, JJ. Bacteriophage flux in endosymbionts (Wolbachia): infection frequency, lateral transfer, and recombination rates. Mol Biol Evol, 21(10), 1981-91, 2004

Reznikoff, WS, Bordenstein, SR, Apodaca, J. Comparative sequence analysis of IS50/Tn5 transposase. J Bacteriol, 186(24), 8240-7, 2004

Bordenstein, SR, Fitch, DH, Werren, JH. Absence of wolbachia in nonfilariid nematodes. J Nematol, 35(3), 266-70, 2003

Bordenstein, SR, Uy, JJ, Werren, JH. Host genotype determines cytoplasmic incompatibility type in the haplodiploid genus Nasonia. Genetics, 164(1), 223-33, 2003

Wernegreen, JJ, Degnan, PH, Lazarus, AB, Palacios, C, Bordenstein, SR. Genome evolution in an insect cell: distinct features of an ant-bacterial partnership. Biol Bull, 204(2), 221-31, 2003

Bordenstein, SR. Symbiosis and the Origin of Species. In Insect Symbiosis, 2, 283-304, 2003

Bordenstein, SR, O''Hara, FP, Werren, JH. Wolbachia-induced incompatibility precedes other hybrid incompatibilities in Nasonia. Nature, 409(6821), 707-10, 2001

Bordenstein, SR, Drapeau, MD, Werren, JH. Intraspecific variation in sexual isolation in the jewel wasp Nasonia. Evolution Int J Org Evolution, 54(2), 567-73, 2000

Bordenstein, SR, Werren, JH. Do Wolbachia influence fecundity in Nasonia vitripennis. Heredity, 84 ( Pt 1), 54-62, 2000

Bordenstein, SR, Werren, JH. Effects of A and B Wolbachia and host genotype on interspecies cytoplasmic incompatibility in Nasonia. Genetics, 148(4), 1833-44, 1998