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J. Gregory Ferry

Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Image of Gregory Ferry

About Me

James (Greg) Ferry obtained his Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois and postdoctoral training at the University of Georgia after which he accepted an Assistant Professor position in the Department of Anaerobic Microbiology of Virginia Tech. After achieving the rank of Professor, he moved to Penn State with the title of Stanley Person Professor. There, he founded the Center for Microbial Structural Biology and is a charter member of the Penn State Astrobiology Research Center. He is currently a member of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Intelligence Science and Technology Experts Group and serves on the editorial boards of Applied and Environmental Microbiology and the Journal of Bacteriology. 


Department or University Committees

  • ECoS Promotion and Tenure Committee

  • Departmental Faculty Search Committee


Research Interest

Biochemistry and molecular biology of anaerobic microbes from the domain Archaea


Research Summary

The laboratory investigates the enzymology and molecular biology of anaerobic microbes from the domain Archaea. Anaerobes--microbes living without oxygen--comprise nearly one-fourth of all living protoplasm on earth and are found in a variety of Earth’s anaerobic habitats which include: (i) estuaries and the deep sea, (ii) rice paddies (iii) the rumen of cattle, and (iv) the gut microbiome of humans and  other monogastric animals. Anaerobes of Earth’s biosphere convert plant biomass to methane in a process that is an essential link in the global carbon cycle. The process impacts the environment and human health in other important ways. Biologically produced methane is a greenhouse gas more powerful than carbon dioxide. On the other hand, the process is used commercially to dispose of domestic and industrial wastes. Many anaerobes are able to detoxify hazardous pesticides, and methane from renewable biomass is a clean-burning alternative energy source. Our research on ancient enzymes from the domain Archaea is contributing to an understanding of the origin and evolution of life and directly impacts the field of Astrobiology.

Gamma class carbonic anhydrase from the domain Archaea

Gamma class carbonic anhydrase from the domain Archaea


Honors and Awards

  • American Society for Microbiology – Graduate Teaching Award (2001)


Selected Publications

  1. Prakash D, Chauhan SS, & Ferry JG (2019) Life on the thermodynamic edge: Respiratory growth of an acetotrophic methanogen. Sci. Adv. 5(8):1-6.

  2. Prakash, D., Iyer, P. R., Suharti, S., Walters, K. A., Santiago-Martinez, M. G., Golbeck, J. H., Murakami, K. S., and Ferry, J. G. (2019) Structure and function of an unusual flavodoxin from the domain Archaea. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 116, 25917-25922.

  3. Yan Z & Ferry JG (2018) Electron bifurcation and confurcation in methanogenesis and reverse methanogenesis. Front. Microbiol. 9:1-10. 10.3389/micb.2018.01322.

  4. Prakash D, et al. (2018) Towards a mechanistic and physiological understanding of a ferredoxin:disulfide reductase from the domains Archaea and Bacteria. J. Biol. Chem. 293:9198-9209.

  5. Yan Z, Joshi P, Gorski CA, & Ferry JG (2018) A biochemical framework for anaerobic oxidation of methane driven by Fe(III)-dependent respiration. Nat. Commun. 9:1642.

  6. Yan Z, Wang M, & Ferry JG (2017) A Ferredoxin- and F420H2-dependent, electron-bifurcating, heterodisulfide reductase with homologs in the domains Bacteria and Archaea. mBio 8:e02285-02216. doi: 02210.01128/mBio.02285-02216.

  7. Jasso-Chavez R, Diaz-Perez C, Rodriguez-Zavala JS, & Ferry JG (2017) Functional role of MrpA in the MrpABCDEFG Na+/H+ antiporter complex from the archaeon Methanosarcina acetivorans. J. Bacteriol. 199(2):e00662-00616.