Professor Steve Busby FRS

School of Biosciences
Professor of Biochemistry

Contact details

School of Biosciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Research in Steve Busby’s lab is concerned with understanding the molecular mechanisms that control gene expression in bacteria, with particular attention to studying the regulation of transcription initiation in Escherichia coli. Much of the recent work has focussed on the expression of virulence determinants in pathogenic strains.


  • BA 1972 University of Cambridge, Natural Sciences 
  • DPhil 1975 University of Oxford


Steve teaches on undergraduate courses at all levels. His biggest contributions are to a second year course on bacterial genes and genomes, and a third year course on bacterial gene regulation. He is currently the Coordinator for the School’s Taught Masters and MRes Programmes.

Postgraduate supervision

Steve Busby’s work concerns the mechanisms by which the expression of different genes is regulated in bacteria. Working with Escherichia coli K-12, the lab has elucidated some of the basic rules of promoter recognition by RNA polymerase and some of the fundamental mechanisms by which transcription activators function. The work with RNA polymerase has focused on the roles of the alpha and sigma subunits, whilst the work on transcription activation has developed from studies of the cyclic AMP receptor protein (known as CRP or CAP), which have established a paradigm for understanding transcription activation in bacteria. Early work with CRP, and with the related activator, FNR, was concerned with simple promoters, such as the E. colilac or gal promoters, where one molecule of activator is sufficient for full induction. Recently, the lab has turned its attention to more complicated promoters that are regulated by many different factors. Because bacterial gene expression is exquisitely sensitive to the environment, the lab has focused on complex cases where one molecule of activator is insufficient for full induction.

Other activities

Vice Chair then Chair of the Biochemical Society (2011-2016)

Head of University of Birmingham School of Biosciences (2012-2016)

Member of BBSRC Committee E (Fellowships)

During the past 2 years, Steve gave invited lectures at: Solihull 6th Form College (Biology Dept); University of Manchester Leaders in Science Lecture (Faculty of Life Sciences); University of Warwick (Division of Microbiology & Infection); University of Oxford (Synthetic Circuit Design MSc);Oundle School 6th Form (Evening Lecture Series); University of Birmingham (Biosciences Evening Lecture series); Concord College, Shrewsbury (Readers and Writers Festival); West Midlands Guild of Graduates Evening Lecture; Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (Harwell); NCBS Molecular Biology (Bangalore); ASE Annual Meeting (Birmingham); University of Salford (Health Forum); University of Marburg (Microbiology); Loyola University Medical School (Chicago); UAM Cuernavaca (Bioinformatics); Denbigh High School (Milton Keynes); NUS Mechanobiology Institute (Singapore)

During the past 24 months, Steve spoke at the following international meetings: Synthetic Biology in Action Course (EMBO Lab Heidelberg); 13th FASEB meeting on Bacterial Transcription (Vermont, USA); 77th Harden Conference on 2-component signaling in bacteria (Chesford Grange, Warwickshire); M4 Midland Microbiology Meeting (Nottingham); 7th Sunny Forum (Sun-Yat Sen University, Guangzhou); Indian Institute of Science-MCB75 Meeting (Bangalore); ASM Annual Meeting Microbe 2016 (Boston, USA); Microbiology Society Annual Meeting Marjory Stephenson Lecture (Edinburgh); BIOTEC2017 Plenary Lecture (Murcia, Spain); 14th FASEB meeting on Bacterial Transcription (Vermont, USA)


Recent publications


Hothersall, J, Lai, S, Zhang, N, Godfrey, R, Ruanto, P, Bischoff, S, Robinson, C, Overton, T, Busby, S & Browning, D 2022, 'Inexpensive protein overexpression driven by the NarL transcription activator protein', Biotechnology and Bioengineering, vol. 119, no. 6, pp. 1614-1623.

Abdelwahab, R, Alhammadi, MM, Hassan, EA, Ahmed, EH, Abu-faddan, NH, Daef, EA, Busby, SJW & Browning, DF 2021, 'Antimicrobial Resistance and Comparative Genome Analysis of Klebsiella pneumoniae Strains Isolated in Egypt', Microorganisms, vol. 9, no. 9, 1880.

Hothersall, J, Godfrey, R, Fanitsios, C, Overton, T, Busby, S & Browning, D 2021, 'The PAR promoter expression system: modified lac promoters for controlled recombinant protein production in Escherichia coli', New Biotechnology, vol. 64, pp. 1-8.

Ruanto, P, Chismon, DJ, Hothersall, J, Godfrey, RE, Lee, DJ, Busby, SJW & Browning, DF 2020, 'Activation by NarL at the Escherichia coli ogt promoter', The Biochemical journal, vol. 477, no. 15, pp. 2807-2820.

Écija-Conesa, A, Gallego-Jara, J, Lozano Terol, G, Browning, DF, Busby, SJW, Wolfe, AJ, Cánovas Díaz, M & de Diego Puente, T 2020, 'An ideal spacing is required for the control of Class II CRP-dependent promoters by the status of CRP K100', FEMS Microbiology Letters, vol. 367, no. 20.

Abdelwahab, R, Yasir, M, Godfrey, RE, Christie, GS, Element, SJ, Saville, F, Hassan, EA, Ahmed, EH, Abu-Faddan, NH, Daef, EA, Busby, SJW & Browning, DF 2020, 'Antimicrobial resistance and gene regulation in Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli from Egyptian children with diarrhoea: similarities and differences', Virulence, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 57-74.

Mejía-Almonte, C, Busby, SJW, Helden, JV, Arkin, AP, Stormo, GD, Eilbeck, K, Palsson, BO, Galagan, JE & Collado-Vides, J 2020, 'Redefining fundamental concepts of transcription initiation in bacteria', Nature Reviews Genetics.

Wand, N, Smith, DA, Wilkinson, A, Rushton, A, Busby, SJW, Styles, I & Neely, RK 2019, 'DNA barcodes for rapid, whole genome, single-molecule analyses', Nucleic Acids Research, vol. 47, no. 12, gkz212, pp. e68.

Guerrero Montero, I, Richards, KL, Jawara, C, Browning, DF, Peswani, AR, Labrit, M, Allen, M, Aubry, C, Davé, E, Humphreys, DP, Busby, SJW & Robinson, C 2019, 'Escherichia coli "TatExpress" strains export several g/L human growth hormone to the periplasm by the Tat pathway', Biotechnology and Bioengineering, vol. 116, no. 12, pp. 3282-3291.

Yasir, M, Icke, C, Abdelwahab, R, Haycocks, JR, Godfrey, RE, Sazinas, P, Pallen, MJ, Henderson, IR, Busby, SJW & Browning, DF 2019, 'Organization and architecture of AggR-dependent promoters from enteroaggregative Escherichia coli', Molecular Microbiology, vol. 111, no. 2, pp. 534-551.

Ellis, SJ, Yasir, M, Browning, DF, Busby, SJW & Schüller, S 2019, 'Oxygen and contact with human intestinal epithelium independently stimulate virulence gene expression in enteroaggregative Escherichia coli', Cellular Microbiology, vol. 21, no. 6, e13012.


Busby, SJW 2021, 'RNA polymerase spoiled for choice as transcription begins', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 118, no. 30, e2110640118.

Review article

Browning, DF, Butala, M & Busby, SJW 2019, 'Bacterial transcription factors: regulation by pick 'n' mix', Journal of Molecular Biology, vol. 431, no. 20, pp. 4067-4077.

Browning, DF, Godfrey, RE, Richards, KL, Robinson, C & Busby, SJW 2019, 'Exploitation of the Escherichia coli lac operon promoter for controlled recombinant protein production', Biochemical Society Transactions, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 755-763.

Cooke, K, Browning, DF, Lee, DJ, Blair, JMA, McNeill, HE, Huber, D, Busby, SJW & Bryant, JA 2019, 'Position effects on promoter activity in Escherichia coli and their consequences for antibiotic-resistance determinants', Biochemical Society Transactions, vol. 47, no. 3, pp. 839-845.

View all publications in research portal


Bacterial genomes: particularly genes that enable bacteria to survive in stressful habitats and genes that make bacteria dangerous to humans

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bacterial genomes; genes that enable bacteria to survive in stressful habitats; genes that make bacteria dangerous to humans; 

bacteria and their effects; molecular mechanisms that make life; organisation of UK Science; biophysics and biochemistry

Alternative contact number available for this expert: contact the press office