Faculty Database:
[Research Interest: Pathogenesis & Infection]

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NameEmailPhd ProgramResearch InterestsPublications
Arthur, Janelle C. email , , , , publications

The Arthur lab is interested in mechanisms by which inflammation alters the functional capabilities of the microbiota, with the long-term goal of targeting resident microbes as a preventative and therapeutic strategy to lessen inflammation and reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. We utilize a unique and powerful in vivo system – germ-free and gnotobiotic mice – to causally link specific microbes, microbial genes, and microbial metabolites with health and disease in the gut.  We also employ basic immunology and molecular microbiology techniques as well as next generation sequencing and bioinformatics to evaluate these essential host-microbe interactions.

Beck, Melinda A. email , , publications

My laboratory studies the relationship between host nutrition and the immune response to infectious disease. Using a mouse model of obesity, we are exploring the mechanism(s) for high mortality from influenza infection in obese mice compared with lean mice. We also have an ongoing clinical research study designed to understand the mechanism(s) involved that impair the influenza vaccine response in obese adults compared with healthy weight adults. We have also demonstrated that host deficiencies in antioxidant nutrients can lead to viral mutations resulting in an avirulent pathogen becoming virulent, suggesting that the host nutritional status can be a driving force for the evolution of viruses.

Braunstein, Miriam email , , , , publications

Our research focuses on understanding the virulence mechanisms of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for the disease tuberculosis.

Conlon, Brian P. email , , , , publications

My lab is focused on the improvement of treatment of chronic bacterial infections. We aim to determine the mechanisms of antibiotic tolerance. Our aim is to understand the physiology of the bacterial cell, primarily Staphylococcus aureus, during infection and how this physiology allows the cell to survive lethal doses of antibiotic. We will use advanced methods such as single cell analysis and Tn-seq to determine the factors that facilitate survival in the antibiotic’s presence. Once we understand this tolerance, we will develop advanced screens to identify novel compounds that can be developed into therapeutics that can kill these drug tolerant “persister” cells and eradicate deep-seated infections.

Cotter, Peggy email , , , , publications

Dr. Cotter’s research is aimed at understanding molecular mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis. Using Bordetella species as models, her group is studying the role of virulence gene regulation in respiratory pathogenesis, how virulence factors activate and suppress inflammation in the respiratory tract, and how proteins of the Two Partner Secretion pathway family are secreted to the bacterial surface and into the extracellular environment. A second major project is focused on Burkholderia pseudomallei, an emerging infectious disease and potential biothreat agent. This research is aimed at understanding the role of autotransporter proteins in the ability of this organism to cause disease via the respiratory route.

Damania, Blossom email , , , , , publications

The work in our laboratory is focused on understanding the molecular pathogenesis of Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), an oncogenic human virus. KSHV is associated with several types of cancer in the human population. We study the effect of KSHV viral proteins on cell proliferation, transformation, apoptosis, angiogenesis and cell signal transduction pathways. We also study viral transcription factors, viral replication, and the interactions of KSHV with the human innate immune system. Additionally, we are developing drug therapies that curb viral replication and target tumor cells.

Dangl, Jeff email , , , , , , , publications

We use the premier model plant species, Arabidopsis thaliana, and real world plant pathogens like the bacteria Pseudomonas syringae and the oomycete Hyaloperonospora parasitica to understand the molecular nature of the plant immune system, the diversity of pathogen virulence systems, and the evolutionary mechanisms that influence plant-pathogen interactions. All of our study organisms are sequenced, making the tools of genomics accessible.

Darville, Lee Antoinette (Toni) email , , , , publications

Research in the Darville lab is focused on increasing our understanding of immune signaling pathways active in development of genital tract disease due to Chlamydia trachomatis and determination of chlamydial antigen-specific T cell responses that lead to protection from infection and disease. In vitro, murine model, and human studies are being performed with the ultimate goal to develop a vaccine against this prevalent sexually transmitted bacterial pathogen. Genetic and transcriptional microarray studies are being performed to explore pathogenic mechanisms and determine biomarkers of pelvic inflammatory disease due to Chlamydia as well as other sexually transmitted pathogens.

De Paris, Kristina email , , , publications

Our research focuses on the immunological aspects of pathogen-host interactions. The lab is actively involved in HIV pathogenesis and vaccine studies using the nonhuman primate model of SIV infection. We are particularly interested in pediatric HIV transmission by breast-feeding and the early, local host immune response. A main research focus is on developmental differences in host immune responses between infants and adults and how they alter pathogenesis. The effect of co-infections (e.g. malaria and Tb) on HIV pathogenesis and transmission is a second research focus. The lab is developing a nonhuman primate model of SIV-Plasmodium fragile co-infection to study HIV-P. falciparum infection in humans.

de Silva, Aravinda email , , , , publications

We study Borrelia burgdorferi (the agent of Lyme disease) as a model for understanding arthropod vector-borne disease transmission. We also study the epidemiology and pathogenesis of dengue viruses associated with hemorrhagic disease.

Dittmer, Dirk email , , , , , publications

Our lab tries to understand viral pathogenesis. To do so, we work with two very different viruses – West Nile Virus (WNV) and Kaposi¹s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV/HHV-8).

Duncan, Alex email , , , , publications

My lab studies a recently identified pathogen-sensing signaling complex known as the inflammasome. The inflammasome is responsible for the proteolytic maturation of some cytokines and induces a novel necrotic cell death program. We have found that critical virulence factors from certain pathogens are able to activate NLRP3-mediated signaling, suggesting these pathogens may exploit this host signaling system in order to promote infections.  Our lab has active research projects in several areas relating to inflammasome signaling ranging from understanding basic molecular mechanisms of the pathway to studying the role of the system in animal models of infectious diseases.

Fessler, Michael B. email , , , publications

Fessler laboratory investigates mechanisms of the innate immune response, in particular Toll like Receptor (TLR) pathways and how they regulate inflammatory and host defense responses in the lung.  To this end, we use both in vitro (macrophage cultures) and in vivo (mouse models of acute lung injury and pneumonia) model systems, and also use translational approaches (e.g., studies using human peripheral blood leukocytes and alveolar macrophages).  An area of particular interest within the laboratory is defining how cholesterol trafficking and dyslipidemia innate immunity.

Gilmour, M Ian email , , , , publications

Dr M Ian Gilmour is a Principal Investigator at the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (NHEERL), U.S Environmental Protection Agency in RTP.    He received an Honors degree in microbiology from the University of Glasgow, and a doctorate in aerosol science and mucosal immunology from the University of Bristol in 1988.  After post-doctoral work at the John Hopkins School of Public Health and the U.S. EPA, he became a Research Associate in the Center for Environmental Medicine at the University of North Carolina. In 1998 he joined the EPA fellowship program and in 2000 became a permanent staff member.  He holds adjunct faculty positions with the UNC School of Public Health and the Curriculum in Toxicology, and at NC State Veterinary School.  He has published over 80 research articles in the field of pulmonary immunobiology where his research focuses on the interaction between air pollutant exposure and the development of infectious and allergic lung disease.

Goldman, William email , , , , publications

Successful respiratory pathogens must be able to respond swiftly to a wide array of sophisticated defense mechanisms in the mammalian lung.  In histoplasmosis, macrophages — a first line of defense in the lower respiratory tract — are effectively parasitized by Histoplasma capsulatum.  We are studying this process by focusing on virulence factors produced as this “dimorphic” fungus undergoes a temperature-triggered conversion from a saprophytic mold form to a parasitic yeast form.  Yersinia pestis also displays two temperature-regulated lifestyles, depending on whether it is colonizing a flea or mammalian host.  Inhalation by humans leads to a rapid and overwhelming disease, and we are trying to understand the development of pneumonic plague by studying genes that are activated during the stages of pulmonary colonization.

Goonetilleke, Nilu email , , publications

We are a human immunology lab focusing on all aspects of T cell immunobiology in HIV-1 infection. Studies range from basic questions like, ‘What are the determinants of the first T cell response following infection?’ to translational challenges such as ‘What is the best design for a T cell vaccine to either prevent infection or achieve HIV-1 cure?’

Keywords: T cells, HIV-1, Escape, CD8 T cells, Vaccines, Cure, Vaccines

Grant, Sarah email , , , , , publications

Our research goal is to understand how bacterial pathogens cause disease on their hosts. We are working with a plant pathogen, Pseudomonas syringae which introduces virulence proteins into host cells to suppress immune responses. Our laboratory collaborates with Jeff Dangl’s lab in the UNC Biology Department using genomics approaches to identify P. syringae virulence proteins and to discover how they alter plant cell biology to evade the plant immune system and cause disease.

Gulati, Ajay email , , , , publications

The work of our laboratory is focused on understanding interactions between the commensal microbiota of the gut and the host epithelium, particularly in the context of chronic inflammatory conditions such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).  Specifically, we are interested in determining the mechanisms by which various susceptibility genes for IBD affect the structure and function of the intestinal microbiota.  In particular, we are exploring the mechanisms by which IBD risk alleles alter the function of intestinal epithelial cells including Paneth, goblet, and stem cells. We expect these studies will lead to the development of safer, patient-specific therapies for individuals with IBD.

Hansen, Jonathan email , , , publications

Current research indicates that inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD’s), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are due to uncontrolled innate and adaptive immune responses to commensal (non-pathogenic) intestinal bacteria in genetically susceptible hosts.  However, the roles of intestinal bacteria in the perpetuation and progression of IBD’s are unclear and the effects of intestinal inflammation on commensal bacterial physiology and virulence are unknown.  We hypothesize that commensal bacteria dynamically respond to intestinal inflammation in a manner that perpetuates or worsens disease.  Exploring this hypothesis will enhance our understanding of the pathogenesis of IBD’s and host-microbial interactions, and potentially identify new therapeutic targets for these currently incurable diseases.

Heise, Mark email , , , , , publications

We study alphavirus infection to model virus-induced disease.  Projects include 1) mapping viral determinants involved in encephalitis, and 2) using a mouse model of virus-induced arthritis to identify viral and host factors associated with disease.

Jaspers, Ilona email , , , , , publications

Research in my lab focuses on the mechanisms by which exposure to air pollutants alters respiratory immune responses and modifies susceptibility to and the severity of respiratory virus infections. Specifically, we are examining the effects of air pollutants such as ozone, woodsmoke and tobacco product exposures on host defense responses and influenza virus infections, using several in vitro models of the respiratory epithelium. In collaboration with physician scientists, we are also translating these studies into humans in vivo.

Lai, Samuel email , , , , , , , , publications

Our dynamic group are broadly involve in three topics: (i) prevention of infectious diseases by harnessing interactions between secreted antibodies and mucus, (ii) immune response to biomaterials, and (iii) targeted delivery of nanomedicine.  Our group was the first to discover that secreted antibodies can interact with mucins to trap pathogens in mucus.  We are now harnessing this approach to engineer improved passive and active immuniation (i.e. vaccines) at mucosal surfaces, as well as understand their interplay with the mucosal microbiome.  We are also studying the adaptive immune response to polymers, including anti-PEG antibodies, and how it might impact the efficacy of PEGylated therapeutics.  Lastly, we are engineering fusion proteins that can guide targeted delivery of nanomedicine to heterogenous tumors and enable personalized medicine.

Lazear, Helen email , , , publications

We use molecular virology approaches and mouse models of infection to understand innate immune mechanisms that control arbovirus pathogenesis (e.g. West Nile, Zika, and La Crosse viruses). Bat flaviviruses have unusual vector/host relationships; understanding the viral and host factors that determine flavivirus host range is important for recognizing potential emerging infections. We are studying the antiviral effects of interferon lambda (IFN-λ) at barrier surfaces, including the blood-brain barrier and the skin. We also use mouse models of atopic dermatitis and herpes simplex virus infection to understand the effects of IFN- λ in the skin. (Accepting rotation students for spring 2016)

Liu, Zhi email , , , , publications

Biochemistry, cell biology, and immunology of skin, immunopathogenesis of autoimmune and inflammatory skin blistering diseases.

Luebke, Robert email , , , , publications

My interests include immunotoxicant modes of action, developmental immunotoxicity, alternative models to screen and prioritize potential immunotoxicants and shared pathways of toxicity/susceptibility across systems and biological levels of complexity.  Recent projects include exploring the relationship between exposure to amphibole asbestos and the reported increases in systemic autoimmune disease in residents of Libby, MT, developing zebrafish-based alternative methods to screen for developmental immunotoxicants, and most recently, the effects of particulate and gaseous air pollutants on innate and acquired resistance to respiratory pathogens.

Maile, Robert email , , , , , publications

An overwhelming number of burn patients die from wound infection and sepsis. Our laboratory, along with Dr Bruce Cairns, investigates translational immune mechanisms within mouse models and burn patients. Focuses in the lab include  1) investigation of innate molecule control of both the innate and adaptive immune systems after burn injury, 2) role of innate signaling to Damage Associated Molecular Patterns in Immune Dysfunction after burn / inhalational injury 3) using NRF2/KEAP1-Targeted Therapy to Prevent Pneumonitis and Immune Dysfunction After Radiation or Combined Burn-Radiation Injury and 4) Investigating sex-specific disparities in Immune Dysfunction

Margolis, David email , , , , publications

The overall goal of our laboratory is to obtain new insights into the host-virus interaction, particularly in HIV infection, and translate discoveries in molecular biology and virology to the clinic to aid in the treatment of HIV infection. A subpopulation of HIV-infected lymphocytes is able to avoid viral or immune cytolysis and return to the resting state. Current work focuses on the molecular mechanisms that control the latent reservoir of HIV infection within resting T cells. We have found that cellular transcription factors widely distributed in lymphocytes can remodel chromatin and maintain quiescence of the HIV genome in resting CD4+ lymphocytes. These studies give insight into the basic molecular mechanisms of eukaryotic gene expression, as well as new therapeutic approaches for HIV infection.

Martinez, Jennifer email , , , , , publications

The focus of the work in the Martinez lab is to examine the non-canonical roles for the autophagy machinery during inflammation.  Our recent work about LC3-associated phagocytosis (LAP) higlights the importance of this non-canonical autophagic process in maintaining tolerance and preventing unwanted autoinflammatory pathologies.

Matsushima, Glenn K email , , , , , , publications

Our laboratory is interested in innate immune responses during injury to the central nervous system and during inflammation during microbial infections.  Our laboratory has a special interest in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus.  We also are pursuing drug discovery projects targeting receptors that may modulate demyelinating disease and immune responses.  We use molecular, cellular and biochemical approaches both in vitro and in vivo to identify the function of key mediators during pathogenesis.

Meeker, Rick email , , , , publications

Dr. Meeker’s research is focused on the mechanisms of HIV neuropathogenesis and the development of therapeutic strategies for the treatment of neuroinflammation. Inflammatory changes within the brain caused by the viral infection initiate a toxic cascade that disrupts normal neural function and can eventually lead to neuronal death. To explore the mechanisms responsible for this damage, we investigate changes in calcium homeostasis, glutamate receptor function and inflammatory responses in primary neuronal, microglial and macrophage cultures. New therapeutic approaches targeted to signal transduction pathways and calcium regulation that protect the neurons and reduce inflammation are under investigation.

Miao, Edward A email , , , publications

We study the mechanisms by which innate immunity detects virulence factor activity in pathogenic bacteria. Research focuses on how macrophages detect bacterial type III secretion systems through the inflammasome, which activates Caspase-1, promoting secretion of the cytokines IL-1b and IL-18, as well as pyroptotic cell death. We manipulate bacterial virulence genetically and probe how this alters innate immune detection during infection. This focus joins the fields of microbial pathogenesis and immunology, utilizing the knowledge and tools of both disciplines.

Miller, Virginia L email , , , publications

Molecular genetic analysis of virulence of Yersinia and Klebsiella: My laboratory uses Yersinia enterocolitica, Y. pestis, and Klebsiella as model systems to study bacterial pathogenesis. The long-term goals of our work are to understand the bacteria-host interaction at the molecular level to learn how this interaction affects the pathogenesis of infections and to understand how these pathogens co-ordinate the expression of virulence determinants during an infection. To do this we use genetic, molecular and immunological approaches in conjunction with the mouse model of infection.

Mitchell, Charles email , , , , publications

My work focuses on the role of plant pathogens in (A) controlling or facilitating biological invasions by plants, (B) structuring plant communities, and (C) modulating the effects of global change on terrestrial ecosystems.  My group works on viruses, bacteria, and fungi that infect wild plants, chiefly grasses and other herbaceous species. Ultimately, I am interested in the implications of these processes for the sustainable provisioning of ecosystem services and for the conservation of biological diversity.

Moody, Cary email , , , , publications

The work in my laboratory focuses on the molecular biology of human papillomaviruses (HPV), small DNA viruses that exhibit epithelial tropism. Certain types of HPV are considered the causative agents of cervical cancer and are also associated with cancers of the anus, oropharynx and esophagus.  My lab is interested in defining mechanisms that regulate the productive phase of the HPV life cycle, which is restricted to differentiating epithelia and includes viral genome amplification, late gene expression and virion production. Using various methods of epithelial differentiation, we are studying how HPV proteins modulate cell signaling pathways, including the DNA damage response and apoptosis, to facilitate viral replication, which in turn contributes to viral pathogenesis and possibly transformation. I will be accepting rotation students beginning in the winter of 2010.

Nagarajan, Uma M email , , , , , publications

Chlamydia trachomatis is the most common sexually transmitted bacterial pathogen that causes Fallopian tube inflammation and subsequent tubal infertility in women.  Our current research interest is to investigate the role of an innate immune responses to chlamydial infection and its role in genital tract pathology in a mouse model of genital infection.  Specifically, we are interested in delineating pathogen recognition by the host, signaling pathways that lead to the induction of innate immune cytokines in vitro and their downstream cellular effects in vivo.  We are specifically interested in understanding the contribution type I IFN, IL-1 activation, caspases and damage associated molecular patterns in pathogenesis. The identification of host molecules involved in amplification of the inflammatory response during infection, would serve as biomarkers and therapeutic targets to prevent reproductive sequelae in women infected with Chlamydia.

Ostrowski, Lawrence E email , , , publications

The overall focus of research in my laboratory is to improve the diagnosis and treatment of airway diseases, especially those that result from impaired mucociliary clearance. In particular, our efforts focus on the diseases cystic fibrosis and primary ciliary dyskinesia, two diseases caused by genetic mutations that impair mucociliary clearance and lead to recurrent lung infections. The work in our laboratory ranges from basic studies of ciliated cells and the proteins that make up the complex structure of the motile cilia, to translational studies of new drugs and gene therapy vectors. We use a number of model systems, including traditional and inducible animal models, in vitro culture of differentiated mouse and human airway epithelial cells, and direct studies of human tissues. We also use a wide range of experimental techniques, from studies of RNA expression and proteomics to measuring ciliary activity in cultured cells and whole animals.

Pickles, Raymond J. email , , , publications

My laboratory, located in the Cystic Fibrosis/Pulmonary Research and Treatment Center in the Thurston-Bowles building at UNC, is interested in how respiratory viruses infect the airway epithelium of the conducting airways of the human lung.

Randell, Scott email , , , , , , , publications

Identification of airway epithelial stem cells; innate immunity in the airway; the pathophysiology of post-lung transplant ischemia reperfusion injury and bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome.

Sartor, R. Balfour email , , , , publications

Our long term goals are to better define mechanisms of chronic intestinal inflammation and to identify areas for therapeutic intervention. Research in our laboratories is in the following four general areas: 1) Induction and perpetuation of chronic intestinal and extraintestinal inflammation by resident intestinal bacteria and their cell wall polymers, 2) Mechanisms of genetically determined host susceptibility to bacterial product,. 3) Regulation of immunosuppressive molecules in intestinal epithelial cells and 4) Performing clinical trials of novel therapeutic agents in inflammatory bowel disease patients.

Swanstrom, Ronald email , , , , , , publications

First, we study the complex HIV-1 population that exists within a person.  We use this complexity to ask questions about viral evolution, transmission, compartmentalization, and pathogenesis.  Second, we are exploring the impact of drug resistance on viral fitness and identifying new drug targets in the viral protein processing pathway.  Third, we participate in a collaborative effort to develop an HIV-1 vaccine.  Fourth, we are using mutagenesis to determine the role of RNA secondary structure in viral replication.

Tamayo, Rita email , , , , publications

Our lab studies the mechanisms facultative pathogens use to adapt to disparate and changing extracellular conditions. Our primary interest is in the ability of Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera, to persist in its native aquatic environment and also flourish in the host intestinal tract. We are addressing key questions about the role of cyclic diguanylate, a signaling molecule unique to and ubiquitous in bacteria, in the physiological adaptations of V. cholerae as it transits from the aquatic environment into a host. In addition, we are identifying and characterizing factors produced by V. cholerae during growth in a biofilm, a determinant of survival in aquatic environments, that contribute to virulence.  I will be accepting rotation students beginning in the winter of 2009.

Tidwell, Richard R email , , , publications

Dr. Tidwell’s research is focused on the design and synthesis of new drugs for the treatment of AIDS-associated opportunistic infections.  The rationale for design of new drugs is directed at determining the mechanisms of action, antimicrobial activity, and pharmacokinetics of dicationic molecules.  Studies have been initiated to isolate and identify new drug targets from Pneumocystis carinii and Cryptosporidium parvum utilizing molecular modeling and biochemical methods to aid in the determination of new structures.  The role of proteases and imidazoline receptors in the pathogenesis of disease continues to be a major area of research as well as a new prodrug approach for the cationic molecules to allow for much improved bioavailability.

Vilen, Barbara email , , , , , publications

We are interested in understanding how autoreactive B cells become re-activated to secrete autoantibodies that lead to autoimmune disease.  Our research is focused on understanding how signal transduction through the B cell antigen receptor (BCR) and Toll Like Receptors (TLR) lead to secretion of autoantibodies in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE).

Whitmire, Jason email , , publications

The Whitmire lab investigates how the adaptive immune system protects against virus infection.  The research is focused on understanding the mechanisms by which interferons, cytokines, and other accessory molecules regulate T cell numbers and functions following acute and chronic virus infections.  The goal is to identify and characterize the processes that differentiate memory T cells in vivo. The long-term objective is to develop strategies that improve vaccines against infectious diseases by manipulating these pathways.

Wolfgang, Matthew C. email , , , , , publications

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Gram-negative opportunistic pathogen responsible for a variety of diseases in individuals with compromised immune function. Dr. Wolfgang’s research focuses on the pathogenesis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection.  The goal of his research is to understand how this opportunistic pathogen coordinates the expression of virulence factors in response to the host environment. Projects in his laboratory focus on the regulation of intracellular cyclic AMP, a second messenger signaling molecule that regulates P. aeruginosa virulence. Dr. Wolfgang’s laboratory uses a combination of molecular genetics and biochemical approaches to understand how P. aeruginosa controls the synthesis, degradation and transport of cAMP in response to extracellular cues. Other related projects focus on the regulation and function of P. aeruginosa Type IV pili (TFP). TFP are cAMP regulated surface organelles that are critical for bacterial colonization of human mucosal tissue. In addition, the Wolfgang lab is actively involved in characterizing the lung microbiome of patients with chronic airway diseases and studying the interactions between P. aeruginosa and other bacterial species during mixed infections.