Microbiology and Immunology
Columbus Center, 5047
Education and Training
Indiana University, Chemistry, B.S. (Honors)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Biochemistry, Ph.D.
Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. DasSarma is a pioneering microbiologist well-known for his contributions to the genomics, molecular biology, and biotechnology of Archaea and the field of Astrobiology. Prior to joining the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, he was a Professor in the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute. He has published over 150 scientific papers over his career and mentored many students. He founded the UMB GPILS genomics track and is the UMB institutional representative for the system-wide MEES graduate program. He serves as director of Climate Change, Health, and Society, an interprofessional collaborative course (CIPP 650).
Please visit the DasSarma Laboratory to learn more.
extremophiles, haloarchaea, microbial genomics, purple membrane, gas vesicle nanoparticles, vaccines and therapeutics, climate change
DasSarma, S. 2006. Extreme Halophiles Are Models for Astrobiology. Microbe 1:120-126.
DasSarma, S. 2007. Extreme Microbes: The Salty Side of Life. American Scientist 95:224-231.
DasSarma, S., Coker, J. A. and DasSarma, P. Archaea (overview). 2009. The Desk Encyclopedia of Microbiology, pp. 118-139, Oxford: Elsevier.
Slonczewski, J. L., Coker, J. A. and DasSarma, S. 2010. Microbial Growth with Multiple Stressors. Microbe 5: 110-116.
DasSarma, S. and DasSarma, P. 2012. Halophiles. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences, Wiley.
DasSarma, S. and DasSarma, P. 2015. Halophiles and their enzymes: negativity put to good use. Current Opinion in Microbiology 25:120–126.
DasSarma, S. and DasSarma, P. 2015. Gas Vesicle Nanoparticles for Antigen Display. Vaccines 3:686-702.
Laye ,V.J., Karan, R., Kim, J.M., Pecher, W.T., DasSarma, P., and DasSarma, S. 2017. Key amino acid residues conferring enhanced enzyme activity at cold temperatures in an Antarctic polyextremophilic β-galactosidase. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 114:12530-12535.
DasSarma, P. and DasSarma, S. 2018. Survival of microbes in Earth's stratosphere. Current Opinion in Microbiology 43:24-30.
DasSarma, S. and Schwieterman, E. W. 2021. Early evolution of purple retinal pigments on Earth and implications for exoplanet biosignatures. International Journal of Astrobiology 20:241-250.
DasSarma, S. et al. 2021. A Roadmap for Responding to Climate Change. MACA website.
Kim, J. M., Kim, Y.S., Kim, Y.R., Choi, M.J., DasSarma, P., and DasSarma, S. 2022. Bioengineering of Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 gas vesicle nanoparticles with GvpC fusion protein produced in E. coli. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 106:2043-2052.
Laye, V.L. and DasSarma, S. 2022. Double mutations far from the active site affect cold activity in an Antarctic halophilic β‐galactosidase. Protein Science 31:677-687.
MIT Margaret MacVicar Leadership Award for Climate Action
Professor, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, University System of Maryland
Institutional Representative, Marine, Estuarine, and Environmental Science Graduate Program
New York Times, A Pond in Hawaii Turned Pink, Raising an Environmental Red Flag
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS Eons), When The Earth Was Purple
Washington Post, 'Superbugs' Could Benefit Humans
The DasSarma laboratory was established in 1986, soon after the discovery of the Archaea. Since then, we have been studying these novel microbes and their mechanisms of adaptation to challenging habitats, including extreme environments and the human microbiome. We use a combination of genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, transcriptomics, and other approaches to address problems of fundamental importance. Our favorite model organism is Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, a salt-loving, radiation-resistant, and desiccation-tolerant archaeon that is easy to culture in the lab and genetically tractable.
We led the sequencing project on Halobacterium (with an international consortium of 12 laboratories), which was published in the October 2000 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. The NRC-1 genome consists of a 2 Mbp circular chromosome and two large plasmids, pNRC100 (191 kbp) and pNRC200 (365 kbp).
We have since studied many of the ca. 2,500 genes in the genome and pursued translational research through genetic engineering and biotechnology. For example, the gas vesicle gene cluster of Halobacterium, which has been of long term interest, is bioengineerable, and is being used for therapeutic and antigenic protein delivery and vaccine development.
Our studies of microaerobically induced genes led to the discovery of novel regulators, such as the bacterio-opsin activator (Bat) and DMSO reductase regulator (DmsR). Gene regulation studies in our lab have also led to the discovery that expanded families of eukaryotic-type transcription factors (TBP and TFB) coordinate promoter selection and expression of different classes of genes under different growth conditions.
Another interest of the lab concerns DNA replication and repair in Halobacterium, which employs both eukaryotic-type proteins (origin binding and single-stranded DNA binding, Orc and RPA) and bacterial-type proteins (nucleotide excision repair, UvrABC). These and other current studies in our laboratory are helping to better understand the strategies for microbial survival and adaptation to develop applications in medicine and the environment.