Assistant Professor
email
Campbell Hall 371
(205) 934-8340

Research and Teaching Interests: Plant Molecular Biology, Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress and Unfolded Protein Response (UPR), Pro- and Anti-apoptotic Signaling in Plant Immunity, Plant Hormonal Cross-talk

Karolina Mukhtar. Office Hours: By appointment

Education:
  • Joint BS/MSc, University of Szczecin, Poland, Biology (Environmental Protection and Laboratory Diagnostics)
  • PhD, Max-Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne, Germany, Genetics
  • Postdoctoral, Duke University, Plant Immunity

Dr. Karolina Mukhtar is a broadly trained molecular plant biologist with over ten years of experience studying various aspects of plant-microbe interactions using genetic and biochemical approaches. After obtaining her Biology degree she worked as a teaching assistant for Cell Biology and then became an IMPRS doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute. Her dissertation described the quantitative basis of plant resistance to two deadly phytopathogens. She graduated summa cum laude and was nominated for the Otto Hahn Medal, the highest academic honor for young scientists awarded by the Max-Planck Society.

Research Opportunities

facebookI am currently accepting graduate students to start in Spring 2016. UAB has both MS and PhD programs in biology that are research focused. If you are interested in joining my lab, please send me an email that outlines your research interests, as well as your curriculum vitae. You can learn more about the lab on its Facebook page.
Subsequently Dr. Mukhtar conducted post-doc research in the laboratory of Dr. Xinnian Dong (a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator) at Duke University, where she studied the molecular basis of plant immunity to a bacterial phytopathogen Pseudomonas syringae. Her projects were focused on transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of plant immunity as well as pathogen-triggered manipulation of plant hormone signaling. This work uncovered the existence of a previously unknown transcriptional growth-to-defense molecular switch in plants; the research resulted in a number of publications in high impact journals including Science, Current Biology, the EMBO Journal, and Genes and Development.

The research in Dr.  Mukhtar's lab at UAB focuses on the interface between the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and several of its most devastating pathogens, including fungi and bacteria. At the center of her research program is the Unfolded Protein Response (see her Research Interests below). Dr. Mukhtar is also highly committed to teaching at K-12, undergraduate, and graduate levels. Recently, she was named one of the 11 inaugural UAB Faculty Fellows in Service Learning. In addition, she pursues a very active educational outreach program directed to K-12 teachers and students as well as minority students of Miles College funded through her NSF-CAREER award and in the framework of the UAB-CORD and ASIM/AMSTI programs.

CV: Download PDF


Karolina Mukhtar and a student. Plants, while lacking adaptive immunity observed in animals, have instead evolved complex innate immune systems that effectively defend them from versatile potential pathogens. Successful defense against pathogenic microbes requires host’s abilities to mount specific, fine-tuned, and temporally as well as spatially regulated responses to various biotic stresses. The research in my laboratory is focused on molecular mechanisms of cellular stress responses in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana.

Unfolded Protein Response (UPR), an evolutionarily conserved cellular stress response, activates upon accumulation of unfolded or misfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) resulting from biotic/abiotic stresses. Initially UPR transduces signals to reinstate ER homeostasis. However, prolonged or acute ER stress may lead to a transition that initiates programmed cell death. The action of UPR in plants is almost unknown. A long-term goal of my laboratory is to advance our understanding of the genetic and molecular basis of UPR in Arabidopsis as well as its role in defense against diverse pathogens. We are expecting to uncover the differences between the animal and plant UPR responses that make it a unique adaptive process in plant immunity. Our primary objective is to identify how the key ER stress sensor IRE1 kinase/endonuclease is mechanistically involved during plant UPR. We are working on identification of additional regulatory factors required for both the activation and the attenuation of ER-stress response and studying the molecular signal transduction pathways that enable cells to activate the stress-adaptive (pro-survival) or apoptotic (pro-death) signaling pathways under mild or acute ER stress conditions, respectively. This research is supported by a recent $1.1 million NSF-CAREER Faculty Early Career Development grant (IOS‐1350244), one of the most prestigious awards supported by the NSF. You can read more about Dr. Mukhtar’s CAREER award in the UAB Reporter.
Karolina Mukhtar and a student. Classes taught by Dr. Mukhtar utilize the i>clicker 2 Classroom Response System that helps monitor real-time learning outcomes, and implement the C.R.E.A.T.E. technique (Consider, Read, Elucidate the hypotheses, Analyze the data, Think of the next Experiment) — a novel way to use the real language of science, the journal article, to empower students to think like scientists. All course materials are available online through Canvas.

Follow the linked course names to see sample syllabi which describe course aims, learning objectives, requirements, and schedules. These are samples only. The instructor may make changes to these syllabi in future courses.

  • Genetics
  • Plant Biology
  • OUTPACE (Outreach Plant Pathology Clinic and Education) - an experimental summer learning program consisting of lectures, labs and field trips, taught by Dr. Karolina Mukhtar and sponsored by the NSF-CAREER Award. You can read about our summer OUTPACE program here. If you’re interested in joining our team for a summer research experience, please check out our scientific blog and contact Dr. Mukhtar by phone or email.
Karolina Mukhtar and some of her lab staff.Current Lab Personnel:
  • Dr. Camilla Kørner (postdoctoral)
  • Dr. Xinran Du (postdoctoral)
  • Dr. Ahmed Amer (visiting postdoctoral; funded by the Egyptian Embassy in the US, May-November 2015)
  • Xiaoyu Liu (PhD)
  • Marie Vollmer (MS)
  • Maggie McCormack (MS)
  • Brenna Terry (5th Year MS)

Download a list of past graduate students.
  • American Phytopathological Society
  • American Society of Plant Biologists
  • International Society of Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • UAB Center for Free Radicals Biology
  • Phi Sigma
  • Alpha Epsilon Delta
  • Sigma Xi