Medical Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine
Our laboratory is interested in innate immunity of mucosal tissues, and we are focused on key epithelial effector molecules including antimicrobial peptides (e.g., defensins) and lectins (e.g., intelectins). These molecules represent evolutionary ancient mechanisms that mediate host-microbe interaction and serve a fundamentally important role enabling multicellular organisms to live in a world teaming with microbes, both beneficial (commensals) and noxious (pathogens). Investigations from our laboratory and others have discovered that certain epithelial defensins serve to sculpt the composition of microbiota that colonize mucosal surfaces, supporting the notion that hosts actively shape colonizing microbiota to ensure a mutualistic interactions.
In addition to this homeostatic function, our studies have shown that these effector molecules can protect the host from pathogenic microbes. The long-range goal of our research is to understand the specific details of how these epithelial effector molecules maintain homeostasis at baseline, as well as rapidly responding to challenge by pathogenic microbes. Our investigations include biochemical and molecular biological approaches and analysis of transgenic and other animal models.