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  • Brian J. Akerley, PhD

    Akerley, Brian

    Associate Professor 
    Phone: (601) 815-1235
    Fax: (601) 984-1708

    PhD, University of California, Los Angeles, CA

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    Primary research interest

    Research in the Akerley lab focuses on the biology and pathogenicity of Haemophilus influenzae, a bacterium that normally colonizes the human nasopharynx asymptomatically yet frequently causes disease by spreading to other sites in the body. Depending on a complex interplay between the host and the infectious strain, H. influenzae invades the bloodstream, spreads to the middle ear, or infects the lungs. The transition between asymptomatic colonization and disease involves a change in the balance between bacterial virulence mechanisms and host defenses. Moreover, our recent evidence indicates that these interactions are markedly influenced by co-infecting pathogens, such as the influenza A virus. Understanding how this balance is maintained and disrupted will require a comprehensive understanding of H. influenzae biology and its interactions with the immune response, host metabolism, normal flora, and co-infecting pathogens.  

    The advent of massively parallel DNA sequencing has facilitated development of powerful genome-scale approaches to understanding bacterial genes involved in infection. One such technique is a procedure that we termed High-throughput Insertion Tracking by Sequencing, or HITS (more generally termed ‘transposon insertion profiling’). Unlike previously available genome-scale methods, such as gene expression profiling, that monitor events that merely correlate with colonization properties, HITS monitors the relative functional contribution to bacterial survival of nearly every gene in the bacterium during infection or in other experimental models.

    By applying this system to H. influenzae in different models of infection, we have identified comprehensive profiles of the genes required by the bacterium in each setting. We expect that insights obtained and technology developed in our studies of H. influenzae will enhance understanding of diverse bacterial pathogens, revealing mechanisms unique to specific agents and those that are common to many types of bacterial infection. This information will be relevant to the development of new antimicrobial therapeutics and vaccines.

    Other activities

    • Member: American Society for Microbiology, 1992-present.
    • Organizer: ASM Divisional Symposium entitled, "Genome-based approaches to understand bacterial pathogens and host defense", 110th Annual Meeting, San Diego, May 24, 2010.
    • Editorial Board: Journal of Bacteriology, 2013-2016.
    • Ad hoc Reviewer, NIH NIAID, NIDCD, and ODCS Study Sections (’02, ’03, ’04, ’05, ’06, ‘12), 2002-2012.