Fall Seminar


Alejandro Aballay, Ph.D.

Director, Center for Host-Microbial Interactions (CHoMI), Duke University Medical Center

When: Nov 04, 2016 - 12:00pm - 01:00pm

Where: 107 Castetter Hall

Our broad research program concerns the use of genetics, functional genomics, and neurobiological approaches to study mechanisms involved in the control of immune responses against microbial pathogens. Immune activation needs to be fine-tuned since deficient or excessive inflammation can lead to cancer, or conditions such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.  Recent studies from our laboratory indicate that different immune and cellular homeostatic mechanisms are regulated at the organismal level by the nervous system. We have demonstrated that specific neurons suppress innate immunity in the intestinal cells of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, in part by down-modulating a mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathway similar to the mammalian p38 MAPK pathway that is highly conserved across metazoans. We found that G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) participate in neural circuits that control a conserved p38/PMK-1 MAPK immune pathway and non-canonical and canonical XBP-1 unfolded protein response pathways that are expressed in non-neuronal tissues and that are necessary to alleviate the increased demand on protein folding during immune activation. We study: 1) neuronal circuits involved in the control of immune homeostasis, 2) receptors involved in pathogen recognition, 3) signaling molecules involved in the control of immune homeostasis, 4) neural responses to infections such as pathogen-induced neurodegeneration, and 5) molecular pathways involved in the control of recovery from bacterial infections.