Thirteen laboratories are conducting research in the area of viral, bacterial, or parasitic pathogenesis; 9 of these laboratories have an emphasis on etiologic agents of sexually transmitted infections.  While some laboratories study the interaction of the microorganism with its target cell or organ, others study the immune response to the microorganism.  

Virology/Viral Pathogenesis Group

One faculty member (Yu) is studying aspects of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).  Their research runs the gamut from studying host-virus interactions, immunopathogenesis, viral latency, and provirus activation, to developing molecular adjuvants for HIV vaccines.  The Yu lab also studies the basic biology of hepatitis C virus (HCV), the major cause of liver transplants in the US, and molecular mechanisms by which HIV coinfection accelerates HCV-associated liver disease. 

Two faculty members (Androphy, Brown) study human papillomaviruses (HPV), a family of viruses that causes genital warts, cervical and other lower genital tract cancers, and a subset of head and neck cancers.  Research in these laboratories is designed to understand viral gene expression and replication, induction of oncogenic transformation by viral gene products, formation of infectious viral particles, clinical/epidemiological studies, and vaccine trials.  

One faculty member (Brutkiewicz) brings together viral pathogenesis with the host immune response by studying the role of specialized, novel cell surface recognition molecules and their regulation by signal transduction pathways. 

Several faculty (Blum, Brutkiewicz, Kaplan, Wilkes) are investigating viral immune evasion and immunological aspects of vaccinia virus, the virus used as an immunogen to vaccinate against smallpox.  Because of its immunogenic properties, vaccinia virus is also being used as a vaccine vector to promote immunity to tumors and other viral agents, including HIV and rabies. 

In addition to studies of the pathogenesis and immune responses to viruses, several faculty members (including Broxmeyer, Clapp, Cornetta, Gardner, Kao) are developing viral vectors, based on retroviruses and lentiviruses, for gene transfer & gene therapy.  

Bacterial Pathogenesis Group

Two laboratories (Bauer, Spinola) study the pathogenesis of Haemophilus ducreyi, the causative agent of the sexually transmitted infection chancroid.  The Bauer laboratory uses H. ducreyi as a model pathogen to understand mechanisms by which extracellular bacteria thwart the human innate immune system.  The Spinola laboratory conducts human challenge experiments to define bacterial virulence determinants and the host immune response to the infection.  Current interests of the Spinola laboratory include genetic regulation of virulence and understanding the basis of differential host responses to H. ducreyi infection; the Spinola lab is also developing novel antimicrobial strategies to combat gram-negative infections. 

Two laboratories (Derbigny, Johnson) study Chlamydia trachomatis, which causes ocular blindness and sexually transmitted infections with debilitating sequelae.  The Derbigny laboratory studies the signaling pathways activated in epithelial cells by infection with C. trachomatis and the impact of the resulting secreted proteins on the immune response; the Johnson laboratory studies the host cellular immune response to C. trachomatis antigens.  

One laboratory (Yang) studies vector-borne bacterial infections. The Yang laboratory employs the Lyme disease pathogen, Borrelia burgdorferi, as a model system to elucidate molecular mechanisms underlying vector-pathogen-host interactions.  The Yang lab also studies other spirochetal pathogens, including Leptospira interrogans, which causes the zoonotic tropical disease Leptospirosis, and Treponema pallidum, the causative agent of the sexually transmitted disease syphilis. 

New recruits to the department’s bacterial pathogenesis team bring expertise on the molecular pathogenesis of obligate intracellular pathogens, including C. trachomatis (Nelson) and Coxiella burnetii (Gilk), which causes the emerging infectious disease Q Fever.  One new laboratory (Nelson) also studies the human microbiome, with an emphasis on novel pathogen discovery. 

Parasitology Group

Two laboratories (Arrizabalaga, Sullivan) study Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan parasite that causes congenital birth defects, as well as opportunistic infection in AIDS, cancer chemotherapy, and organ transplant patients.  The Sullivan laboratory studies regulation of T. gondii gene expression; the Arrizabalaga laboratory seeks to elucidate the cell signaling mechanisms of growth and host pathogen interactions of T. gondii

Please click on the individual faculty members highlighted below to reach their web pages.  Clicking on gene transfer/gene therapy will bring you to a list of faculty designing/using viral vectors.  Clicking on immunology will bring you to a list of faculty studying aspects of the human immune system, including immune responses to infection.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology | IU School of Medicine | 635 Barnhill Drive, MS 420 | Indianapolis, IN 46202 | (317) 274-0506