Microbiology, Immunology & Pathology

Volume 6, Issue 6
June 2009

High Five

Congratulations to the following faculty on their upcoming promotion and/or tenure actions which become effective July 1:

Lora BallweberLora Ballweber
Dean CrickDean Crick
Promoted to Full Professor
Mercedes GonzalezMercedes Gonzalez-Juarrero
Promoted to Associate Professor
MycobacteriaVara Vissa
Promoted to Associate Professor
Carol WiluszCarol Wilusz
Promoted to Associate Professor

Congrats Residents

Congratulations to the 4 students who completed their Veterinary Residency:


Monali Bera - Anatomic Pathology
David Gardiner - Anatomic Pathology
Amy Miller - Clinical Pathology
Matt Rosenbaum - Comparative Medicine

Check out Photos from the Reception held on June 4 in the Pathology Glover Gallery.


Summer Intership with NIH

Carlie Brown's research with Dr. Claudia Gentry-Weeks this spring semester has focused on finding bacteriophages that will lyse A. baumannii with the goal of finding alternative treatments for antibiotic resistant infections. Dr. Gentry-Weeks encouraged her to apply for an internship with NIH this summer---which Carlie was awarded. She's spending the summer as an intern in Dr. Steven Holland's lab in the Laboratory of Clinical Infectious Diseases. Dr. Holland and his team research many topics including immune defects, bacterial / fungal pathogenesis, and cytokine functions.

To quote Carlie: “Dr. Gentry-Weeks has been an amazing mentor to me, and I love microbiology so much from working with her that I changed my major to microbiology.”

Congratulations and have fun in Bethesda!

New Gates Grant

Congratulations to Bill Wheat and John Spencer for recently landing one of 81 Grand Challenges Explorations grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fund a project involving a vaccine targeting a protein found in sandfly saliva called maxadilan. The vaccine may help prevent leishmaniasis - which most commonly presents as a painful ulcerative skin lesion in endemic areas (our troops in Iraq refer to it as 'Baghdad Boils' but systemic visceral forms also exist. So how theoretically would a vaccine against sandfly spit protect against the Leishmania parasite? Based on previous work by our own Richard Titus, the maxadilan protein is a powerful immunosuppressant that alters the cell surface molecules and cytokines that are released from dendritic cells and macrophages. This messes up the communication between antigen presenting cells and T cells, driving the immune system towards a non-protective TH2 antibody response rather than the cell-mediated immune response needed to destroy the intracellular leishmania parasites. Thus the saliva protein appears to play a major role in the outcome of an exposure to a leishmania-ladened sandfly that lands on your arm for a blood meal. We wish Bill and John the best of luck with this important research and advise the MIP community to remember that its not just a fad anymore, its Leish-mania!


MIP Undergrad Micro Majors visit the home of the
World Champion Phillies

ASM Mtg Participants Jamie Everman, Torsten Eckstein and Danielle Cogswell

Danielle Cogswell is a 2008 ASM undergrad research fellow. Danielle presented her abstract entitled, “Structural Characterization of Lipid 550/760 from Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis” D. R. Cogswell, D. L. Dick, C. D. Rithner, J. M. Inamine, T. M. Eckstein.

Petra Gest and Mary Jackson Petra Gest and Mary Jackson

Petra Gest is a 2008 ASM undergrad research fellow. Petra presented her abstract entitled, “Mycobacterium tuberculosis Class II Aldolase as a Novel Drug Target and Biomarker” P. Gest, M. Guerin, G. Ryan, R. Daher, J. Spencer, M. Fonvielle, M. Therisod, A. Lenaerts, M. Jackson.

CSU MIP Students spelling CSU

Jamie Everman presented her abstract entitled, “Characterization of Two Genes Involved in the Biosynthesis of a M. paratuberculosis-Specific Lipopeptide.” J. L. Everman, A. M. Talaat, T. M. Eckstein, J. M. Inamine

Faculty and students RoxAnn Karkhoff-Schweizer, Stephanie Lehman, Katie Mladinich and Herbert Schweizer

Katie Mladinich is a 2008 ASM undergrad research fellow. Katie presented her abstract entitled, “Evaluation of a Spectinomycin Resistance Encoding Gene (aadA) as a Marker for Genetic Manipulations of Burkholderia δ(amrAB-oprA) strains.” K. Mladinich, H.P. Schweizer, R.R. Karkhoff-Schweizer

Stephanie Lehman is a 2008 ASM undergrad research fellow. Stephanie presented her abstract entitled, “Construction of a Nourseothricin Resistance Gene Cassette for Use in Burkholderia spp. Efflux Pump Deficient Strains.” S. Lehman, H.P. Schweizer, R.R. Karkhoff-Schweizer.

In the News...


Kathleen England Brostrom defended her dissertation entitled, "Drug Discovery for F. tularensis and M. tuberculosis" on Tuesday, May 12th, advisor Dr. Richard Slayden.

Timothy Kurt defended his thesis entitled, “In Vitro Amplicfication of CWD Prions and Enhanced Trans-Species Transmission” on Friday, June 12. Dr. Edward Hoover is his advisor.

pub highlight

"Selection, characterization and application of new RNA HIVgp120 aptamers for facile delivery of dicer substrate siRNAs into HIV infected cells"

J. Zhou, P. Swiderski, H. Li, J. Zhang, C. Preston Neff, Ramesh Akkina and J.J. Rossi

Nucleic Acids Research 37: 3094-3109

HIV is one nasty virus. Despite the fact that there are ~25 drugs already approved by the FDA to combat HIV, the ability of the virus to rapidly evolve resistance to these therapeutics during human infections (particularly when only a single drug is given to patients) has created a need for new and better antivirals. The laboratories of John Rossi at the Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope and our own Ramesh Akkina have joined forces to specifically attack this problem. In the current paper, the groups combine the best of siRNA and aptamer technologies to develop an interesting 'double whammy' drug against the virus.

To appreciate the paper, you'll need to know a little about these two technologies. Short duplexed RNA molecules called siRNAs can be used to specifically degrade targeted mRNAs. Thus these siRNA can be used to specifically down-regulate any human - or HIV- gene of interest. The discovery of the mechanism underlying this powerful technology led to Nobel Prize in medicine for Fire and Mello in 2006. Aptamer technology hasn't quite made the same headlines as siRNAs, but nevertheless is quite impressive in its own right. Single-stranded RNA molecules are very versatile in terms of shape - so versatile, in fact, that out of random pools of RNAs you can select for molecules that will bind very tightly and specifically to almost anything. Thus aptamers could be developed that bind to an HIV surface glycoprotein and block its function on the surface of a virus or an infected cell. So imagine for a moment the possibilities if you could figure out a way to put these two technologies together..

In this paper, the group first used a technique called SELEX that was developed by another Colorado connection (Larry Gold at CU) to create a new RNA aptamer that binds to the HIV gp120 surface glycoprotein. This aptamer on its own was shown to repress HIV infectivity. In addition, this aptamer could bind to gp120 on the surface of an infected cell. Once on the surface, the cell's normal receptor-mediated endocytosis machinery very effectively internalized the aptamer. The group realized that if they engineered the aptamer appropriately, they could attach an siRNA that targets HIV genes to it, effectively creating a one-two punch against HIV. With this in mind they designed a very versatile apatamer with a 16 base sticky end that in theory can deliver any desired siRNA into cells that contain the HIV gp120 protein on the surface. Their current system gave an ~85% knockdown of their siRNA targeted HIV gene as well as a significant inhibition of the overall HIV infection in human T cells.

So why did we select this paper as the coveted MIPublication of the month? The main reason is that the use of a nucleic acid aptamer as both an antiviral as well as a delivery agent for siRNAs is simply downright clever. In addition, the sticky ends of the aptamer the group designed has multiplexing possibilities that can deliver a plethora of anti-viral siRNAs to cells - a strategy that may very well further confound the ability of HIV to develop resistance. One other reason we selected this paper is that involves RNA, which as we all know is one of the most amazing and interesting aspects of molecule biology (and the MIPnews editor would never miss an opportunity to plug the MIP543 RNA Biology Course which will be given this Fall..).

MIP Publications Late May - Early June 2009


Pete Justice Mentors Junior High Student Kelli Lynch to a 3rd Place Finish at the International Science Fair Competition in Reno, NV

Pete Justice and Kelli Lynch Pete Justice and Kelli Lynch

As a 9th grader at Blevins Junior High School, Kelli Lynch came up with an idea to design and construct a solar powered, UV-based, water purifier that could be used in remote regions of third-world countries that have poor water quality.

Working with our own Pete Justice, she used E. coli-contaminated water and did serial dilutions and colony counts to assess a variety of fundamental variables for UV killing in aqueous solutions. She used these data for her presentation at the local science fair competition at Blevins. At the local Science Fair at Blevins Junior High, she took first place in her category for this project, qualifying her for the Regional Science Fair Competition in Greeley.

Between the local competition and Regionals, Kelli constructed a prototype of her device (not solar powered) which she and Pete were able to test. It didn't work perfectly (the tubing she was using was blocking the UV rays) but her determination was not abated and she went on to take first place in her division at Regionals which qualified her for the state competition here at CSU in April.

Between Regionals and state she redesigned her system and assessed a variety of other variables in her system. At the State Competition, Kelli would be competing against students up to 3 grades above hers. Despite this intense competition, Kelli took second place which qualified her for the International Science Fair competition in Reno Nevada.

Kelli spent the second week of May in Reno and had a great experience. She took 3rd place in Microbiology overall and also got a special 5th place award from the American Society for Microbiology.

This summer Kelli wants to continue testing her device and next wants to try it out on gram positive organisms and possibly even parasites. She is truly an amazing and driven young woman.


College Research Council Grants Awarded to Nine MIP Researchers

Congratulations to the following MIP researchers who were awarded grants by the CVMBS College Research Council for 2009/2010:

  • Andrea Bohn, "Characterization of the Exosomal Urine Proteome in the Dog"
  • Torsten Eckstein, "Development of Innate Adjuvants as Countermeasures Against Mycobacterium paratuberculosis"
  • Mary Jackson, "Mechanisms of Resistance of Rapidly-Growing Mycobacteria to Disinfectants"
  • Lon Kendall, "Immuno-Antimicrobial Therapy for Treatment of Chronic Staphylococcal Infection"
  • Christine Olver, "Altitude Acclimatization in Laboratory Mice"
  • Diane Ordway, "A Novel Guinea Pig Biomarker for M. tuberculosis Drug Efficacy Testing"
  • Sandra Quackenbush, "Development of an Oncolytic Virus"
  • Alan Schenkel, "Role of PECAM in Lung Disease"
  • Jennifer Taylor, "HspX Subunit Vaccination Against Pulmonary Infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Mice"

Green is Gold

The Green is Gold campaign is a campus-wide initiative to save energy and reduce energy costs. Teammates from a location on campus (e.g., a department) work together to implement energy saving measures in their building. So MIPers - anybody interested in putting together Micro, Path, IDA, etc. teams?

Teams will earn rewards points for their conservation efforts, which can be used to acquire energy saving tools, such as motion-sensor light switches and a community bike. Top-achieving teams will earn Green is Gold certification and recognition at a University event.

Green is Gold Team Registration

Best wishes Wendy and Kathy!


Wendy SeayWendy Seay accepted a position in the Psychology Department, her last day with MIP was June 8th. The staff hosted a party for Wendy on June 5th to say goodbye and thank her for her service to MIP. We wish her well in this future endeavor!

Wendy's duties are being assumed by other accounting technicians in the department for now, and Linda Pundt will be assigning those accounts. Please contact Linda if you have any questions.

Kathy Lassen

Kathy Lassen will be leaving the department at the end of June, unfortunately the budget reductions are forcing the department to make some very difficult decisions. Kathy became a MIP employee a little over a year ago and brought order into our chaotic equipment tracking process. Apart from her work, she will be personally missed by all of us. Be sure to stop by Micro anytime during the day on Friday, June 19th to thank her for the work she has done at MIP and wish her well. The staff will be providing some goodies for munching.

Jeanette Fritzler will be the point person for facility and equipment issues in the future. Jeanette will be making contact to ensure a smooth transition.

Where are they now?

What are MIP Graduate Students doing with their Advanced Degrees in Microbiology and Pathology?

Kathleen England Brostrom has accepted a post doc position at NIAID/NIH working in the TB Research Section. In addition she will be working this summer for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva on the Epidemic and Readiness Intervention Team in the Department of Global Alert and Response.

Matt Rosenbaum has accepted faculty position as Assistant Professor at East Carolina University in the Department of Comparative Medicine within the Brody School of Medicine. Inside the department, Matt will work closely with three other veterinarians and staff of 20 plus. He plans on sitting for his ACLAM specialty boards in the summer of 2010. His wife, Kathryn, and daughter, Avery, are looking forward to moving to the coast of North Carolina as they will all be closer to family and only a short distance to the beach. He has enjoyed his time at CSU and the family intends on visiting Fort Collins in the near future- especially for the beer.

Kali Shaw will be staying on in the alphavirus lab at CDC with Dr. Powers. Her summer will be filled with mosquitoes (infecting them in the lab and avoiding them on the softball fields!) She also hopes do some teaching (microbiology or public health) in the next few years, but she is currently enjoying her newly-acquired free time.

ballotCongratulations to the newly-elected members of the MIP departmental committees:

Advisory Committee

Ric Slayden and Hana Van Campen - three year terms beginning 8/2009

Promotion, Tenure and Reappointment Committee

Ian Orme - three year term beginning 12/15/2009

Graduate Education Committee

Bill Black - three year term beginning 8/2009

Undergraduate Education Committee

Jenny Taylor - three year term beginning 8/2009

CSU Alumni Association

Did you Know...

MIP is the department that employs the most CSU alumni on Campus. Ninety-four of us MIP'ers are CSU alums!

Online travel forms

To help travelers complete the required travel forms while away from campus, the department Admin Assistants have posted the travel forms online. Please see the new MIP Administrative Forms webpage to access. In the future, other frequently used administrative forms will be posted at this same location.

Fiscal year deadlines

All transactions for Acard purchases must be dated prior to June 30th, 2009 to be charged to FY09.
All travel vouchers with an end trip date of June 30, 2009 must be submitted to the department by June 19th, 2009.

MIP Bits

Quote of the Month

“A train station is where the train stops. A bus station is where the bus stops. On my desk, I have a work station...”

 ~Source Unknown

Wedding Singer Ad

Billboard on the corner of Lemay and Mulberry - could that romantic crooner perhaps be our own Dr. Basaraba?

Alternative Captions:
  1. Wonder which was the harder ‘stress test’ for 1st Bank - the Fed's version or having to listen to Dr. Basaraba sing for his loan?
  2. C'mon guys - if the thought of Dr. Basaraba singing the ‘hokey pokey’ doesn't make you wanna pop the question to that special someone, what will?
  3. In an attempt to make email, texting and tweeting obsolete at CSU, we hear that Randy is thinking of starting a ‘singing telegram’ service in the Department.
  4. Randy figures out another way to weasel his way into a place with an open bar.
  5. Submit your own.


Click Here for the questions to MIPuzzle #43
Click Here or the answers to MIPuzzle #43
MIPuzzle 43

(and warn the Recycling Center for the upcoming deluge)

Carlson Office Move

Dr. Carlson is Cleaning Up His Office!

and speaking of deluges....

Water Buckets

Heavy June rains + Micro Bldg roof = plenty of buckets in the 4th floor stairwell

NIH Happenings
  • Don't fret about missing percentiles on recently reviewed R01 grants

    For R01 applications reviewed for September Council, early summary statements will lack a percentile because of the debut of the new scoring system. NIH can't calculate percentiles until scores are in for a significant fraction of applications. After all, percentiles are calculated against a base, which as yet does not exist.

  • NIAID's One stop shop for Immunology related data and data analysis tools

    ImmPort -- Immunology Database and Analysis Portal -- lets you access reference and experimental data from the research community - all for free compliments of NIAID.

  • New ARRA (Stimulus Package) Opportunities keep rolling in

    Check out the new Human Immunology (Oct 15th deadline), as well as the BRDG-SPAN & ARRA SBIR (Sept 1st deadline) at the NIH Website.

New Grant Awards

grantRamesh Akkina, "Overcoming HIV-1 Resistance to RNA Interface", Rhode Island Hospital

grantRandall Basaraba, "Biofilm-Specific, Genetically Mediated Host Immunoavoidance", Northern Arizona University

grantDean Crick, "DP-Identification of Isopentenyl Diphosphate Synthesis Inhibitors in Burkholderia", NIH-NIAID

grantMary Ann DeGroote, "In Vitro and In Vivo Testing of Agents for Activity against Mycobacterium Abscesses", American Lung Association

grantMichael McNeil, "HTS Assay and Configuration for Inhibitors of the UDP-Mur Formation Pathway", NIH-Neurological Disorders & Stroke

grantChester Moore, "West Nile Virus Testing", City of Fort Collins

grantWilliam Wheat, "Novel arthropod-based vaccine system against leishmaniasis", Gates Foundation

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