Bonnie L Hurwitz
Assistant Professor, Agricultural-Biosystems Engineering
Assistant Professor, BIO5 Institute
Assistant Professor, Genetics - GIDP
Assistant Professor, Statistics-GIDP
Clinical Instructor, Pharmacy Practice-Science
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 626-9819
Work Summary
Our lab focuses on large-scale –omics datasets, high-throughput computing, and big data analytics. We leverage these technologies to answer questions related to the relationship between microbes, their hosts, and the environment. In particular, we focus on viral-host interactions and co-evolution given environmental factors (i) in aquatic systems and (ii) for phage treatment of diabetic foot ulcers.
Research Interest
Dr. Bonnie Hurwitz is an Assistant Professor of Biosystems Engineering at the University of Arizona and BIO5 Research Institute Fellow. She has worked as a computational biologist for nearly two decades on interdisciplinary projects in both industry and academia. Her research on the human/earth microbiome incorporates large-scale –omics datasets, high-throughput computing, and big data analytics towards research questions in “One Health”. In particular, Dr. Hurwitz is interested in the relationship between the environment, microbial communities, and their hosts. Dr. Hurwitz is well-cited for her work in computational biology in diverse areas from plant genomics to viral metagenomics with over 1200 citations


Ball, C. L., Daniel, S. G., Besselsen, D. G., Hurwitz, B. L., & Doetschman, T. C. (2017). Functional changes in the gut microbiome contribute to Transforming Growth Factor β-deficient colon cancer. mSystems, 2(5), 1-17.
BIO5 Collaborators
David G Besselsen, Thomas C Doetschman, Bonnie L Hurwitz
Hurwitz, B. L., Deng, L., Poulos, B. T., & Sullivan, M. B. (2013). Evaluation of methods to concentrate and purify ocean virus communities through comparative, replicated metagenomics. Environmental microbiology, 15(5), 1428-40.

Viruses have global impact through mortality, nutrient cycling and horizontal gene transfer, yet their study is limited by complex methodologies with little validation. Here, we use triplicate metagenomes to compare common aquatic viral concentration and purification methods across four combinations as follows: (i) tangential flow filtration (TFF) and DNase + CsCl, (ii) FeCl3 precipitation and DNase, (iii) FeCl3 precipitation and DNase + CsCl and (iv) FeCl3 precipitation and DNase + sucrose. Taxonomic data (30% of reads) suggested that purification methods were statistically indistinguishable at any taxonomic level while concentration methods were significantly different at family and genus levels. Specifically, TFF-concentrated viral metagenomes had significantly fewer abundant viral types (Podoviridae and Phycodnaviridae) and more variability among Myoviridae than FeCl3 -precipitated viral metagenomes. More comprehensive analyses using protein clusters (66% of reads) and k-mers (100% of reads) showed 50-53% of these data were common to all four methods, and revealed trace bacterial DNA contamination in TFF-concentrated metagenomes and one of three replicates concentrated using FeCl3 and purified by DNase alone. Shared k-mer analyses also revealed that polymerases used in amplification impact the resulting metagenomes, with TaKaRa enriching for 'rare' reads relative to PfuTurbo. Together these results provide empirical data for making experimental design decisions in culture-independent viral ecology studies.

Hurwitz, B. L., Ponsero, A., Thornton, J., & U'Ren, J. M. (2017). Phage hunters: Computational strategies for finding phages in large-scale 'omics datasets. Virus research, 244, 110-115.

A plethora of tools exist for identifying phage sequences in bacterial genomes, single cell amplified genomes, and host-associated and environmental metagenomes. Yet because the genetics of phages and their hosts are closely intertwined, distinguishing viral from bacterial signal remains an ongoing challenge. Further the size, quantity and fragmentary nature of modern 'omics datasets ushers in a new set of computational challenges. Here, we detail the promises and pitfalls of using currently available gene-centric or k-mer based tools for identifying prophage sequences in genomes and prophage and viral contigs in metagenomes. Each of these methods offers a unique piece of the puzzle to elucidating the intriguing signatures of phage-host coevolution.

Brum, J. R., Hurwitz, B. L., Schofield, O., Ducklow, H. W., & Sullivan, M. B. (2016). Seasonal time bombs: dominant temperate viruses affect Southern Ocean microbial dynamics. The ISME journal, 10(2), 437-49.

Rapid warming in the highly productive western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) region of the Southern Ocean has affected multiple trophic levels, yet viral influences on microbial processes and ecosystem function remain understudied in the Southern Ocean. Here we use cultivation-independent quantitative ecological and metagenomic assays, combined with new comparative bioinformatic techniques, to investigate double-stranded DNA viruses during the WAP spring-summer transition. This study demonstrates that (i) temperate viruses dominate this region, switching from lysogeny to lytic replication as bacterial production increases, and (ii) Southern Ocean viral assemblages are genetically distinct from lower-latitude assemblages, primarily driven by this temperate viral dominance. This new information suggests fundamentally different virus-host interactions in polar environments, where intense seasonal changes in bacterial production select for temperate viruses because of increased fitness imparted by the ability to switch replication strategies in response to resource availability. Further, temperate viral dominance may provide mechanisms (for example, bacterial mortality resulting from prophage induction) that help explain observed temporal delays between, and lower ratios of, bacterial and primary production in polar versus lower-latitude marine ecosystems. Together these results suggest that temperate virus-host interactions are critical to predicting changes in microbial dynamics brought on by warming in polar marine systems.

Hurwitz, B. L., & U'Ren, J. M. (2016). Viral metabolic reprogramming in marine ecosystems. Current opinion in microbiology, 31, 161-8.

Marine viruses often contain host-derived metabolic genes (i.e., auxiliary metabolic genes; AMGs), which are hypothesized to increase viral replication by augmenting key steps in host metabolism. Currently described AMGs encompass a wide variety of metabolic functions, including amino acid and carbohydrate metabolism, energy production, and iron-sulfur cluster assembly and modification, and their community-wide gene content and abundance vary as a function of environmental conditions. Here, we describe different AMGs classes, their hypothesized role in redirecting host carbon metabolism, and their ecological importance. Focusing on metagenomic ocean surveys, we propose a new model where a suite of phage-encoded genes activate host pathways that respond rapidly to environmental cues, presumably resulting in rapid changes to host metabolic flux for phage production.