The Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics is made up of 19 primary faculty, 13 cross-appointed faculty, and 16 adjunct faculty. Additional faculty from other departments or schools can also participate in our program. Faculty have diverse interests and study the basic microbiology of fungal diseases (Candidiasis, Aspergillosis, Cryptococcosis), bacterial diseases (Tuberculosis, Cholera), parasitic diseases (Schistosomiasis and Malaria), and viral diseases (AIDS, SARS-CoV-2, Influenza virus, Poxvirus), in addition to specific organisms (Chlamydia spp., Francisella tularensis, Campylobacter, E. coli, Mycoplasma spp., Vibrio cholerae, Candida spp., Cryptococcus neoformans, Aspergillus fumigatus, and Plasmodium falciparum). Broader microbiology research includes microbial diagnostics and microbiomes.
Other faculty study host pathogen-interactions such as the role of toxins in microbial pathogenesis, mechanisms of antiviral immunity and viral strategies of immune evasion, the interaction of the gut microbiome and associated metabolites (e.g., vitamin B12) with the host, metabolic and microbial determinants of follicular helper T cell expansion and regulatory T cell impairment in lupus, the use of chlamydial infection as a model to investigate the mechanisms of inflammatory pathology and pathogenic fibrosis, and the development of protective B cell responses against malaria and the regulation of gene expression in the parasite during the stages responsible for disease in humans.
Areas of investigation in basic immunology include the mechanisms that drive age-induced dysfunction of the lymphopoietic stromal microenvironment in the thymus, epigenetic mechanisms regulating expression of the immunoglobulin locus, as well as genome-wide and specific gene expression in antibody response, autoantibody response, and immune B cell memory, investigation of the mechanisms of lupus pathogenesis, investigation of the mechanisms and nature of cooperation between iNK T and B cells during immune responses to model and bacterial lipid antigens, the mechanisms underlying the differentiation and retention of tissue resident memory T cells controlled by transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-) signaling following acute infections, the mechanisms underlying differentiation and function of B lymphocytes in antibody responses to infectious pathogens, understanding how B cell differentiation mechanisms are dysregulated and lead to disease conditions, the development and function of tissue-resident lymphocytes in the skin and roles of these lymphocytes in local immune homeostatic regulation and inflammation, the regulation of mucosal immunity to maintain the balance between protective immunity and immunopathology at mucosal surfaces including the gut, defining immune mechanisms controlling inflammatory- and chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain, and pro-inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease.
Finally, faculty also study multiple aspects of the role of the immune system in cancer, including understanding the critical role of lymphotoxin (LT) in the regulation of innate lymphoid cells in the gut, elucidation of how LTβR signaling regulates intestinal inflammation in colitis-associated cancer, improving the effectiveness of cancer therapy by targeting the LTβR pathway in the liver, development of biodegradable nanoparticle vaccines against established tumors, investigation of the complex roles of B lymphocytes in breast cancer, and the role of microbial pathogens in cancer.