My lab is interested in the dynamic interactions between microbial pathogens and host. Research from our lab demonstrated that spores of Bacillus anthracis, a Gram-positive bacterium that causes anthrax, could adhere to and be taken up by a variety of host non-phagocytic cells including epithelial cells of the lung. We also showed that B. anthracis could cross an epithelial barrier without apparent damage to the barrier integrity, suggesting a transcellular route of translocation. Currently we are focusing on understanding the molecular details of how spores of B. anthracis are taken up by epithelial cells, how they breach the lung mucosal barrier, and how these processes affect disease progression and outcome. Specifically we aim to elucidate the components of intracellular signaling pathways that lead to the uptake of spores by epithelial cells, to map the intracellular route taken by the spores to pass through epithelial cells, and to examine these processes within the context of an infection using animal models. These studies fall into the general area of regulation of the actin cytoskeleton and vesicle trafficking. On the microbial side, we are interested in identifying the bacterial factors responsible for triggering the uptake and directing intracellular migration.

We employ a variety of approaches including molecular, biochemical, cellular, immunological, and genetic methods in our research. A tutorial in my laboratory would provide opportunities to learn concepts and techniques in the above areas.