Skip to main content

Kevin Corbett


Research in the Corbett lab is focused on the inner workings of molecular machines, particularly those that cut, recombine, and repair DNA. We combine cutting-edge structural biology techniques with mechanistic biochemistry and bioinformatics to understand how these machines work at the atomic level, and how they have adapted to new biological roles through evolution. Our work addresses two major biological questions: (1) How do bacteria defend against bacteriophage infection, and how do bacteriophages counter bacterial defenses to successfully infect and kill their hosts? (2) How do eukaryotic cells manage the complex process of chromosome organization, recombination and segregation in meiosis to generate haploid gametes? Remarkably, the molecular machinery underlying both of these questions shares many common structural and mechanistic features.

Select Publications

  • Milano C.R.*, Ur S.N.*, Gu Y., Tromer E.C., Zhang J., Hochwagen A.†, Corbett K.D.† (2023) Chromatin binding by HORMAD proteins regulates meiotic recombination initiation. bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2023.03.04.531117.
  • Ledvina H.E.*, Ye Q.*, Gu Y., Quan Y., Lau R.K., Zhou H., Corbett K.D.†, Whiteley A.T.† (2023) An E1-E2 fusion protein primes antiviral immune signaling in bacteria. Nature 616(7956): 319-325
  • Deep A.*, Gu Y.*, Gao Y-Q., Ego, K.M., Herzik M.A., Zhou H., Corbett K.D. (2022) The SMC-family Wadjet complex protects bacteria from plasmid transformation by recognition and cleavage of closed-circular DNA. Molecular Cell 82(21):4145-4159.
  • Laughlin T.G.*, Deep A.*, Prichard A.M., Seitz C., Gu Y., Enustun E., Suslov S., Khanna K., Birkholz E.A., Armbruster E., McCammon J.A., Amaro R.E., Pogliano J., Corbett K.D.†, Villa E.† (2022) Architecture and self-assembly of the jumbo bacteriophage nuclear shell. Nature 608(7922): 429-435.
  • Lu S.*, Ye Q.*, Singh D., Villa E., Cleveland D.W.†, Corbett K.D.† (2021) The SARS-CoV-2 Nucleocapsid phosphoprotein forms mutually exclusive condensates with RNA and the membrane-associated M protein. Nature Communications 12(1):502.
  • Lau R.K, Ye Q., Birkholz E.A., Berg K.R., Patel L., Mathews I.T., Watrous J.D., Ego K., Whiteley A.T., Lowey B., Mekalanos J.J., Kranzusch P.J., Jain M., Pogliano J., Corbett K.D. (2019) Structure and mechanism of a cyclic trinucleotide-activated bacterial endonuclease mediating bacteriophage immunity. Molecular Cell 77:723-733.
  • Ye Q., Lau R.K, Mathews I.T., Birkholz E.A., Watrous J.D., Azimi C.S., Pogliano J., Jain M., Corbett K.D. (2020) HORMA domain proteins and a Trip13-like ATPase regulate bacterial cGAS-like enzymes to mediate bacteriophage immunity. Molecular Cell 77:709-722.
Key for symbols
* Co-first author
Co-corresponding authors


Kevin Corbett received his bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Biology from the University of Virginia. He completed his PhD as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow at the University of California Berkeley, in the lab of James Berger. He was a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow in the lab of Stephen Harrison at Harvard Medical School, then joined the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at UCSD in 2011. He joined the faculty of Molecular Biology in 2023.