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The Val Culotta Laboratory


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The Val Culotta Laboratory


 
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Research in the Culotta lab focuses on metals at the host-pathogen interface.  Metal ions such as Cu, Zn, Fe and Mn are essential nutrients for all living organisms and during infection, the host attempts to starve invading pathogens of these micronutrients through a process known as nutritional immunity.  Historically, the Culotta laboratory used bakers yeast S. cerevisiae  as a model eukaryote to uncover mechanisms by which typical eukaryotes (non-pathogens) acquire metals and traffic these micronutrients to the active site of metalloenzymes, with an emphasis on the anti-oxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD) enzymes.  What we uncovered in bakers yeast was extrapolated to diverse non-pathogenic eukaryotes from invertebrates to humans.  However, pathogens are faced with unique challenges in acquiring metal nutrients from the host and our program is now focused on understanding the tug-of-war for metals between a pathogen and its animal host. Our major emphasis is on metals and SOD enzymes of the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans.  The laboratory also investigates the unique metallobiology of the Lyme disease pathogen, Borrelia burgdorferi.