Paola Massari Ph.D.
Office: 650 Albany St., X-6
The Massari laboratory in interested in understanding the role of the bacterial outer membrane proteins, porins, in shaping host cellular responses to human pathogenic and commensal microorganisms. Porins are among the first components that interact with target cells upon bacterial infection/colonization. They directly interact with TLR2 on the cell surface and induce a variety of TLR2/TLR1-dependent effects, for example activation of immune and epithelial cells, NF-κB activation and induction of cytokines. These events translate in TLR2-dependent immune stimulatory properties in vivo, culminating in enhanced antibody production, and Th1-type and Th2-type immune response. Additionally, her laboratory together with the laboratory of Dr. Wetzler has shown that porins have a direct effect on mitochondrial homeostasis, acting as anti-apoptotic molecules. The role of TLR2 in this effect is still being investigated. An additional aspect of studies in the Massari laboratory focuses on the nature of the structural interaction of porins and TLR2 (and/or other TLRs) in the context of specific pathogenic organisms and their relevant target cell models (upper respiratory epithelium / N. meningitidis, female cervical epithelia / N. gonorrhoeae, oral epithelia / F. nucleatum). A new area of work together with Drs. Genco and Ingalls is examining the role of specific intercellular signaling receptors in N. gonorrhoeae proinflammatory responses.