The Battle Between Intracellular Pathogens and their Hosts: Common Threads and Unique Features

Speaker Details:

Alexis Kaushansky
Assistant Professor
Center for Infectious Disease Research; UW Department of Global Health

Lecture Details:

May 24, 2018
12:30-1:20 p.m.
Foege N130A, Wallace H. Coulter Seminar Room


Intracellular pathogens have extensive needs of their cellular hosts and can manipulate the environment to promote their own survival and growth. While these broad features of host-pathogen interaction are thought to highlight parallels, very few if any studies have systematically compared perturbations of the host by divergent pathogens or elucidated common regulatory pathways that control a multitude of intracellular pathogens. I will describe approaches we have taken to evaluate similarities and differences between pathogens on the cellular and molecular level. By employing quantitative microscopy, reverse phase protein arrays and kinase regression, we have identified common and divergent ways by which intracellular infections such as Plasmodium, Toxoplasma, Trypanosoma and Chlamydia engage their hosts, select optimal cells, invade, and rewire the cellular environment to their advantage. Our data suggest surprising common regulatory pathways that control infections, including many pathways that have not been previously linked to innate immunity or infection. Moreover, our data suggest that similarities in host engagement cannot be simply predicted based on relatedness of pathogen alone. Identifying host factors that are crucial for multiple infections may provide novel approaches to intervention.

Speaker Bio:

Alexis Kaushansky is an Assistant Professor at the Center for Infectious Disease Research. Alexis received her Bachelors in Science in Chemistry from Harvey Mudd College in 2004, and her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2010. During her Ph.D., she trained with Gavin MacBeath, where she was fortunate to work as part of an interdisciplinary team that included chemists, computer scientists and biologists to develop protein array technology, and apply this approach to understanding the molecular changes that occur in cancer. She joined Stefan Kappe’s group as a postdoctoral fellow in 2010 to use similar technologies to uncover changes that occur in the liver in response to malaria infection. In 2015, she started a lab at the Center which is focused on discovering how pathogens, such as malaria, interact with their human host, and using this knowledge to eliminate infection. Outside of work, Alexis enjoys spending time with her family, running, cooking, traveling and debating current events.