Areas of Interest
Neisseria gonorrhoeae, infection and vaccine development Infection pathogenesis and host immunity Innate and Adaptive immune response
My lab focuses on studies of the molecular mechanisms by which pathogens interaction with host immune responses influence infection pathogenesis. Our lab began with studies of the activation of the family of innate immune signaling proteins known as NOD-like receptors (NLRs) by bacterial pathogens. Our lab has focused on studying the molecular mechanisms of NLR protein ligand recognition and activation, particularly NLRP3 which forms a Caspase-1 activating, IL-1 processing complex known as the inflammasome upon activation. In addition to biochemical and molecular work focused on mechanisms of innate immune signaling, we have studied the host innate and adaptive immune responses that influence N. gonorrhoeae infection pathogenesis. My lab discovered that N. gonorrhoeae suppresses host antigen presenting cells’ ability to stimulate T lymphocyte proliferation and has ongoing studies to understand the mechanisms that support this immune evasion. Our studies of N. gonorrhoeae pathogenesis and immunity have been bolstered by the use of a human challenge model for N. gonorrhoeae infection. I have worked in collaboration with Dr. Marcia Hobbs here at UNC running unique experimental human gonococcal infection program for nearly a decade. We have used this model to study N. gonorrhoeae pathogenesis comparing isogenic mutant strains of N. gonorrhoeae. We collaborated on a study of the efficacy of a novel antibody based therapeutic in prevention of N. gonorrhoeae infection using the human challenge model. We also have ongoing research projects studying the cross-reactive immune responses against N. gonorrhoeae that are induced by outer-membrane vesicle-based vaccines against the related pathogen, N. meningitidis using a combination of mouse and human infection models.
Education and Training
- Undergraduate California Institute of Technology
- Medical School University of Texas Southwestern Medical School
- Residency University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Fellowship University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill