ContactPciTyrrell Conway

Regents Professor and Head of Department


BS and PhD in Microbiology, Oklahoma State University
Post-doctoral Research with Professor Lonnie O. Ingram, University of Florida

Professional Experience
Assistant Professor, School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology, Ohio State University
Presidential Professor of Microbiology, University of Oklahoma
Regents Professor of Microbiology, Oklahoma State University


Current Research

We work on two main projects: to elucidate the mechanisms of nutrient acquisition by Escherichia coli in the intestine and to use single-nucleotide-resolved transcriptome data for comparative gene expression analysis of competing intestinal bacteria.


Mechanisms of Nutrient Competition in the Mammalian Intestine. This project addresses how E. coli colonizes the large intestine. The data illuminate cellular processes -- nutrition, stress-tolerance, and virulence factors -- that are important for colonization and pathogenesis. Importantly, we found that different E. coli biotypes compete for different sugars in the intestine, suggesting a mechanism for the succession of E. coli strains in healthy individuals and infection by E. coli pathogens that must overcome the colonization resistance barrier imparted by the resident E. coli. In addition, we learned that E. coli must respire oxygen to be competitive in the intestine. This finding suggests that E. coli scavenges oxygen to create anaerobic conditions that favor growth of the anaerobes that dominate the intestinal microbiota. We now have funding to explore and characterize the symbiotic relationship between E. coli and the anaerobes that degrade complex polysaccharides, which in turn release simple sugars to cross-feed E. coli. Our results are explained by the restaurant hypothesis, which predicts microhabitats within the colonic mucus layer where facultative anaerobes, like E. coli, grow on sugars that are served locally by polysaccharide degrading anaerobes.

Single-nucleotide Resolution Transcriptome Analysis. The goal of this project is to understand how bacterial cells work, from genome to transcriptome to metabolome, and to know their genetic circuitry and metabolic networks. To that end, work in my laboratory centers on how colonized bacterial cells grow and compete for nutrients in the microbial community of the mammalian intestine. Two major projects in the laboratory, both focused on E. coli, involve elucidating its symbiotic relation with the anaerobic microbiota in a mouse model of intestinal colonization and generating a single-nucleotide-resolution transcriptome map. Our RNA-Seq transcriptome map builds on the first published E. coli DNA microarray paper and the world’s largest E. coli gene expression database (GenExpDB). In the bioinformatics arena we developed a database schema and middleware, interfaced to intuitive displays, as a computational environment that we have used for discovery of genetic circuits controlling the general stress response and stringent response.

E. coli Gene Expression Database

GenExpDB has a new home at Oklahoma State University! https://genexpdb.okstate.edu

GenExpDB is the world’s largest repository for E. coli gene expression data. This site is a widely used public resource for gene expression analysis.


Current Undergraduate Researchers

HannahSanders Hannah Sanders: Senior
Hometown: Morrison, OK
Major: Microbiology, Cell & Molecular Biology
Why you chose to study microbiology: I chose to study microbiology because of the diversity of the subject and the fascinating impact microorganisms have on the world. 
AmandaDemackiewicz Amanda Demackiewicz: Senior
Hometown: Okarche, OK
Major: Microbiology, Cell & Molecular Biology & Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Why you chose to study microbiology: After taking a Zoology course my freshman year and learning about different microbes and pathogens, I learned that I was very interested in microbiology.
AmberEick Amber Eick: Senior
Hometown: Owasso, OK
Major: Microbiology, Cell & Molecular Biology
Why you chose to study microbiology: I came to OSU not knowing what I wanted to do but decided that I liked microbiology after taking introductory microbiology lab.
AlishaBeckford Alisha Beckford: Sophomore
Hometown: Houston, TX
Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Why you chose to study microbiology: I chose to conduct research in the microbiology department, because I am interested in broadening my horizons in scientific research and medicine by gaining more experience within different fields.
KaylaKifer Kayla Kifer: Sophomore
Hometown: Cushing, Oklahoma
Major: Microbiology, Cell & Molecular Biology (Medical Laboratory Sciences option)
Why you chose to study microbiology: I chose to study microbiology, because I hope to become a medical laboratory technician someday.
TannerCole W. Tanner Cole: Sophomore
Hometown: Altus, OK
Major: Microbiology, Cell & Molecular Biology
Why you chose to study microbiology: I chose microbiology, because it was somewhat familiar to me and was a good choice for a major that would prepare me for medical school.

 Recent Publications

  • Conway, T. and Cohen, PS. 2015. Applying the restaurant hypothesis to intestinal microbiota. Microbe. 10(8) August, 2015

  • Conway, T. and Cohen, PS. 2015. Commensal and Pathogenic Escherichia coli Metabolism in the Gut. Microbiol Spectr. 3(3) doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.MBP-0006-2014. PMID: 26185077

  • Schinner S.A., Mokszycki M.E., Adediran J., Leatham Jensen M., Conway T., Cohen P.S. 2015. Escherichia coli EDL933 Requires Gluconeogenic Nutrients to Successfully Colonize the Intestines of Streptomycin-Treated Mice Pre-colonized with E. coli Nissle 1917. Infect Immun. 83:1983-1991. PMID: 25733524

  • Creecy, J. P. and T. Conway. 2015. Quantitative bacterial transcriptomics with RNA-seq. Curr Opin Microbiol. 2015, 23:133–140. PMID: 25483350

  • Otsuka Y, Muto A, Takeuchi R, Okada C, Ishikawa M, Nakamura K, Yamamoto N, Dose H, Nakahigashi K, Tanishima S, Suharnan S, Nomura W, Nakayashiki T, Aref WG, Bochner BR, Conway T, Gribskov M, Kihara D, Rudd KE, Tohsato Y, Wanner BL, Mori H. 2014. GenoBase: comprehensive resource database of Escherichia coli K-12. Nucleic Acids Res. Nov 15. pii: gku1164 (Epub). PMID: 25399415

  • Conway T., Creecy J.P., Maddox S.M., Grissom J.E., Conkle T.L., Shadid T.M., Teramoto J., San Miguel P., Shimada T., Ishihama A., Mori H., Wanner B.L. Unprecedented high-resolution view of bacteria operon architecture revealed by RNA sequencing. MBio. 2014 Jul 8;5(4):e01442-14. PMID: 25006232

  • Meador JP, Caldwell ME, Cohen PS, Conway, T. 2014. Escherichia coli pathotypes occupy distinct niches in the mouse intestine. Infect Immun. 82(5): 1931-1938. PMID: 24566621

  • Adediran, J., M. Leatham-Jensen, M.E. Mokszycki, J. Frimodt-Møller, K.A. Krogfelt, K. Kazmierczak, L.J. Kenney, T. Conway, and P.S. Cohen. 2014. An Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 envZ Missense Mutant Colonizes the Streptomycin-Treated Mouse Intestine Better than the Wildtype but is not a Better Probiotic. Infect. Immun. 82:670-682. PMID: 24478082

  • Kröger, C., A. Colgan, S. Srikumar, K. Händler, S.K. Sivasankaran, D.L. Hammarlöf, R. Canals, J.E. Grissom, T. Conway, K. Hokamp, and J.C. Hinton. 2013. An Infection-Relevant Transcriptomic Compendium for Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium. Cell Host Microbe 14:683-695. PMID: 24331466