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Portrait photo of Martin Schuster.

Martin Schuster

Department of Microbiology
College of Science
College of Agricultural Sciences

Martin Schuster

Department of Microbiology
College of Science
College of Agricultural Sciences


The Schuster Lab at OSU is interested in the mechanisms and evolution of bacterial cooperation and communication. Microbial cooperative behaviors are ubiquitous and important in pathogenic and non-pathogenic environments. They serve as tractable models for the evolution and maintenance of cooperation in general. In particular, we investigate two cooperative behaviors in medically and ecologically relevant Pseudomonas bacteria: Cell-cell communication, also termed quorum sensing, and siderophore-mediated iron acquisition. We link mechanistic and evolutionary inquiry. We investigate the biochemistry, genetics, and physiology of these behaviors to uncover mechanisms that stabilize cooperation. We also investigate social interactions at the population level within and between species, to better understand evolutionary dynamics. We combine reductionist and systems approaches, aided by various -omics techniques and mathematical modeling.

Research interests

Bacterial cooperation and communication

Courses taught

  • MB 430/530 Bacterial Pathogenesis
  • MB 456/556 Microbial Biotechnology



Ph.D., Microbiology, University of North Carolina, 2000

B.S., Biology and Chemistry, University of Göttingen, Germany, 1994


  • Schuster, M., Li, C., Smith, P., and Kuttler, C. (2023) Parameters, architecture, and emergent properties of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa LasI/LasR quorum sensing circuit. J. R. Soc. Interface, 20: 20220825
  • Smith, P. and Schuster, M. 2022. Antiactivators prevent self-sensing in Pseudomonas aeruginosa quorum sensing. PNAS 119 (25) e2201242119. 10.1073/pnas.2201242119
  • Smith, P., and Schuster, M. 2021. Inexpensive Apparatus for High-Quality Imaging of Microbial Growth on Agar Plates. Front. Microbiol. 12:689476. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2021.689476.
  • Robinson, T., Smith, P., Alberts. E.R., Colussi-Pelaez, M., and Schuster, M. 2020. Cooperation and Cheating through a Secreted Aminopeptidase in the Pseudomonas aeruginosa RpoS Response. mBio. 2020 Mar 17;11(2).
  • Smith, P., Cozart, J., Lynn, B.K., Alberts, E., Frangipani, E., and Schuster, M. 2019. Bacterial cheaters evade punishment by cyanide. iScience, 19:101-109.
  • Smith, P. and Schuster, M. 2019. Public goods and cheating in microbes. Curr. Biol. 29(11):R442-R447.
  • Hense, B., McIntosh, M., Mueller, J., and Schuster, M. 2019. Homogeneous and heterogeneous responses of quorum-sensing bacteria in an evolutionary context. arXiv, May
  • De Leenheer P., Schuster, M., and Smith, H. (2018). Strong cooperation or tragedy of the commons in the chemostat. Math. Biosci. Eng. 16(1):139-149.
  • Sexton, D.J. and Schuster, M. (2017). Nutrient limitation determines the fitness of cheaters in bacterial siderophore cooperation. Nat. Commun. 8:230.
  • Sexton, D.J., Glover, R.C., Loper, J.E., and Schuster, M. (2017). Pseudomonas protegens Pf-5 favours self-produced siderophore over free-loading in interspecies competition for iron. Environ. Microbiol. 19:3514-3525.
  • Schuster, M., Sexton, D.J. and Hense, B.A. (2017). Why quorum sensing controls private goods. Front. Microbiol. 8:885.
  • Asfahl, K.L. and Schuster, M. (2016). Social interactions in bacterial cell-cell signaling. FEMS Microbiol. Rev. 41:92-107.
  • Asfahl, K.L., Walsh, J., Gilbert, K., and Schuster, M. (2015). Non-social adaptation defers a tragedy of the commons in Pseudomonas aeruginosa quorum sensing. ISME J. 9:1734-46.
  • Hense, B. and Schuster, M. (2015). Core principles of bacterial autoinducer systems. Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev. 79:153-69.
  • Morgun, A., Dzutsev, A., Dong, X., Greer, R.L., Sexton, D.J., Ravel, J., Schuster, M., Hsiao, W., Matzinger, P., and Shulzhenko, N. (2015). Uncovering effects of antibiotics on the host and microbiota using transkingdom gene networks. Gut. 64:1731-43.
  • Mellbye, B.L., and Schuster, M. (2014). A physiological framework for the regulation of quorum-sensing dependent public goods in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. J. Bacteriol. 196:1155-64.
  • Schuster, M., Sexton, J., Diggle, S., and Greenberg, E.P. (2013). Acyl-homoserine lactone quorum sensing: From mechanism to evolution. Annu. Rev. Microbiol. 67:43-63.
  • Gupta, R. and Schuster, M. (2013). Negative regulation of bacterial quorum sensing tunes public goods cooperation. ISME J. 7:2159-68.
  • Mellbye, B.L., and Schuster, M. (2011). The sociomicrobiology of antivirulence drug resistance: A proof of concept. mBio 2: e00131-11.
  • Wilder, C., Allada, G., and Schuster, M. (2009). Instantaneous within-patient diversity of Pseudomonas aeruginosa quorum-sensing populations from cystic fibrosis lung infections. Infect. Immun. 77: 5631-5639
  • Gilbert, K., Kim, T. H., Gupta, R., Greenberg, E. P., and Schuster, M. (2009). Global position analysis of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa quorum-sensing transcription factor LasR. Mol. Microbiol. 73: 1072-1085
  • Sandoz, K.M., Mitzimberg, S.M., and Schuster, M. (2007). Social cheating in Pseudomonas aeruginosa quorum sensing. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 104: 15876-15881