Current Research Program:
Pathogenic bacteria are serious global health concerns. These microorganisms cause disease through their interaction with host cells and their subsequent control of normal cellular functions. These pathogens commonly use bacterially generated effector proteins to commandeer eukaryotic cells for their own purposes. Understanding these sub-cellular alterations are the focus of the research conducted in my laboratory.
My laboratory primarily investigates the host cellular alterations caused by a group of pathogenic microbes called the attaching and effacing bacteria. Members of this family include: the human intestinal pathogens enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC), also known as E.coli 0157:H7 [which are the bacteria responsible for recent ground beef, spinach and sprout contamination in the United States], enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) [bacteria responsible for nearly 1,000,000 child deaths /year in developing countries due to the dehydration and electrolyte imbalance caused by the severe diarrhea associated with this disease] and the mouse pathogen Citrobacter rodentium [the most widely used mouse model of attaching and effacing bacterial diseases]. During these infections, these organisms remain outside of host cells and inject a multitude of effectors as part of their disease processes. One of the most characteristic features of these infections involves the generation of host cell protrusions beneath the attached bacteria that result in these microbes rising of the natural surface of the host cell onto structures called, pedestals. These structures are critical for the virulence of these microorganisms. Additionally, these bacteria alter numerous sub-cellular components that lead to additional aberrations to normal cellular physiology.
My laboratory personnel are also embarking on an examination of the cell biological alterations that occur during Francisellae infections. We also use a number of other pathogens to study our hypotheses.
As a cellular microbiology laboratory, we are currently conducting in depth analyses into the cytoskeletal and signaling alterations, intercellular junction modifications and the molecular mechanisms that lead to the generation of diarrhea during bacterial diseases.
Technically, we use an array of microscopic and molecular/cell biological tools as well as proteomics to test our hypotheses. We also routinely use light and electron microscopy, 3D imaging, fluorescent protein imaging in live cells and RNA interference to uncover sub-cellular alterations induced by these bacteria.
I am currently accepting applications for highly qualified Undergraduate Summer Students, Graduate Students and Post-Doctoral Fellows.