University of Calgary

Michael Francis Hynes

  • Faculty Professor
  • Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences
  • Microbiology

Currently Teaching

Not currently teaching any courses.

Research Interests

Research activities have included studies on symbiotic nitrogen fixation, and on development of vector and gene transfer systems for various bacteria of agricultural significance (rumen bacteria, biological control agents, plant-growth promoting bacteria). Our major effort has been directed towards understanding the role of very large plasmids in the free-living and symbiotic life of Rhizobium spp. that form nitrogen fixing nodules on the roots of various legume host plants. Plasmid encoded loci involved in the catabolism of a wide variety of carbon sources have been identified in R. leguminosarum, and the role of these genes in the ability of the bacterium to compete with other bacteria, and to survive as a rhizosphere organism, is being investigated. Horizontal gene transfer between rhizobia, involving both Symbiosis Islands that are self-transmissible and conjugative plasmids, have been a major research focus in the last six years. Studies are also ongoing on partitioning systems that make these plasmids so stable. Another major area of research for the past few years has been the study of chemotaxis and motility in rhizobia, and the regulation of genes involved in these processes. Other lab interests include work on bacteriocins, bacteriophages and IS elements.  We have recently developed a project to explore the use of phages to enhance competitiveness for legume inoculants and have been working on genomics and applications of these rhizobiophages for the last several years.

Graduate and Postdoctoral Students

Current Graduate and PhD Students:

Deborah Buhlers, PhD student                       Ribitol catabolism in Rhizobium leguminosarum

Kasuni Hemananda, PhD student                   Regulation of conjugation of rhizobial plasmids

Damitha Gunathilake, PhD student                Functional genomics of rhizobiophages


Current Postdoctoral Fellow:

Maria Augusta Schmidt, PhD             Secretion systems for targetting proteins from bacteria to                                                                 plants.


Recently Completed Graduate Students:

Dulmini Wathugala PhD                    Analysis of conjugation genes in Rhizobium


Cynthia Yip, Ph.D.                             Plasmid replication systems in Rhizobium leguminosarum

Anupama Halmillawewa, PhD           Characterization of rhizobial phages

Hao Ding, PhD                                   Novel conjugation system in Rhizobium leguminosarum


Selected Publications

Selected Recent Publications:

Vrdonk CJ, Sullivan JT, Williman KM, Nicholson L, Bastholm TR, Hynes MF, Ronson CW, Bond CS, Ramsay JP (2019) Delineation of the integrase-attachment and origin-of-transfer regions of the symbiosis island ICEMlSymR7A Plasmid 104:102416. doi: 10.1016/j.plasmid.2019.102416

Ramsay JP, Hynes MF, Sullivan JT, Ronson CW, Symbiosis Islands, In Reference Module in Life Sciences, Elsevier, 2017, ISBN: 978-0-12-809633-8,

Scharf BE, Hynes MF, Alexandre GM (2016) Chemotaxis signaling systems in model beneficial plant-bacteria associations.  Plant Molec. Biol. 90:549-559  doi: 10.1007/s11103-016-0432-4

Halmillawewa AP, Restrepo-Córdoba M, Perry BJ, Yost CK, Hynes MF (2016) Characterization of the temperate phage vB_RleM_PPF1 and its site-specific integration into the Rhizobium leguminosarum F1 genome.  Mol. Genet. Genom. 291:349-362 (doi:10.​1007/​s00438-015-1113-8)

Ramsay JP, Tester LGL, Major AS, Sullivan JT, Edgar CD, Kleffmann T, Patterson-House JR, Hall DA, Tate WP, Hynes MF, Ronson CW (2015) Ribosomal frameshifting and dual-target antiactivation restrict quorum-sensing-activated  transfer of a mobile genetic element.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA . 112:4104-4109 (doi:10.1073/pnas.1501574112 )

Halmillawewa AP, Restrepo-Córdoba M, Yost CK, Hynes MF (2015)  Genomic and phenotypic characterization of Rhizobium gallicum phage vB_RglS_P106B. Microbiology 61:611-620. (doi: 10.1099/mic.0.000022)

Yip CB, Ding H, Hynes MF (2015) Counter transcribed RNAs of Rhizobium leguminosarum repABC plasmids exerts incompatibility effects only when highly expressed.  Plasmid 78:37-47 (doi:10.1016/j.plasmid.2014.12.003)

Tambalo DD, Yost CK, and Hynes MF (2015) Motility and chemotaxis in the rhizobia, In: Biological Nitrogen Fixation  edited by Frans De Bruijn. Wiley and Sons, Hoboken New Jersey, Chapter 33, pages 337-348

Tambalo, DD,  Vanderlinde EM, Robinson S, Halmillawewa A, Hynes MF, and Yost CK (2014) Legume seed extracts and Physcomitrella patens extracts influence swarming behaviour in Rhizobium leguminosarum.  Can. J. Microbiol. 60:15-24

Vanderlinde EM, Hynes MF, and Yost CK (2014) Homoserine catabolism by Rhizobium leguminosarum  bv. viciae 3841 requires a plasmid-borne gene cluster that also affects competitiveness for nodulation.  Environ. Microbiol.  16:205-217 DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.12196

Ronson CW, Hynes MF, Ramsay JP, and Sullivan JT (2013) Symbiosis islands.  In “Brenner's Encyclopedia of Genetics” 2nd edition, edited S. Maloy and K. Hughes. Elsevier publishers. pp 598-600.  DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-374984-0.01497-2

Ding H, Yip CB, and Hynes MF (2013) Genetic characterization of a novel rhizobial plasmid conjugation system in Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. viciae strain VF39SM.  J. Bacteriol. 195:328-339. (DOI: 10.1128/JB.01234-12)

Ramsay JP,  Major AS, Komarovsky VL, Sullivan JT, Dy R, Hynes MF, Salmond GP, Ronson CW (2013) A widely conserved molecular switch controls quorum sensing and symbiosis island transfer in Mesorhizobium loti through expression of a novel antiactivator. Mol. Microbiol. 87:1-13. (DOI doi: 10.1111/mmi.12079)

Ding H, Yip CB, Geddes BA, Oresnik IJ, and Hynes MF (2012) Glycerol utilization by Rhizobium leguminosarum requires an ABC transporter and affects competition for nodulation. Microbiology 158:1369-1378. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.057281-0

Tambalo DD, Bustard DE, Del Bel KL, Koval SF, Khan MF, and Hynes MF (2010) Characterization and functional analysis of seven flagellin genes in Rhizobium leguminosarum BMC Microbiology 10:219 doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-219

Tambalo DD, Yost CK, and Hynes MF (2010) Characterization of swarming motility in Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. viciae.  FEMS Microbiology Lett. 307:165-174
DOI: 10.1111/j.1574-6968.2010.01982.x

Tambalo DD, Del Bel KL, Bustard DE, Greenwood PR, Steedman AE, and Hynes MF (2010) Regulation of flagellar, motility and chemotaxis genes in Rhizobium leguminosarum by the VisN/R-Rem cascade. Microbiology 156:1673-1685   DOI:10.1099/mic.0.035386-0








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