Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Adjunct Professor of Oral Biology
Allergy and Immunology; Gene Expression; Genomics and proteomics; Immunology; Infectious Disease; Medical Microbiology; Microbial Pathogenesis; Microbiology; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Molecular Basis of Disease; Molecular genetics; Signal Transduction
My laboratory researches complementary aspects of host-pathogen interactions through two distinct projects in the fields of immunology and bacterial pathogenesis.
In the field of immunology, we study the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate mucosal immune responses by stimulating the immune system with enterotoxins produced by certain strains of E. coli. Mucosal immune responses provide critical protection against microbial pathogens that invade through the body’s mucosal surfaces (the gut, the oral cavity, the urogenital system, and the respiratory system). The enterotoxins we employ are potent mucosal adjuvants which enhance mucosal and systemic immune responses to foreign antigens when administered concurrently. In addition to describing these immune regulation mechanisms that respond to the enterotoxins, our research can also support the development of new mucosal vaccines.
In the field of bacterial pathogensis, our research analyzes the genetic factors in four pathogenic species of the Bordetellae that enable these microorganisms to scavenge iron from host tissues. The ability of these bacterial pathogens to infect a host depends upon the bacteria acquiring iron from that host using receptors and accessory proteins encoded by specific gene clusters, including hurIR-bhuRSTUV and ecfIR-bfrH. Extracellular signals control expression of these gene clusters by regulating specific sigma factors (ECF). Information obtained in these experiments will provide the means to create drugs to abrogate acquisition of iron, an essential nutrient, and identification of new antigens that can be employed as vaccine targets.