Professor Emerita
Department of Pediatric DentistryKatz

Address: 845 19th Street South
Bevill Biomedical Research Building, 713
Birmingham, AL 35294
Telephone: (205) 934-2878
FAX: (205) 996-4008





DDS, Technological University of Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico
PhD (Immunology/Pathology), University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL

Research Interests

A major aspect of my research has been to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in microbial-host interactions in the pathogenesis of infectious diseases with emphasis on Porphyromonas gingivalis, an etiologic agent of periodontal disease and Francisella tularensis, the etiologic agent of tularemia. I have used the whole bacterium or purified virulence antigens to investigate the nature of the induced innate and T cell host responses, as well as the signaling molecules and transcription factors involved in order to develop therapies or vaccines against infection. Recently, I have been interested in the role of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC), as inhibitors of signaling pathways, in the host immune response to P. gingivalis infection. Our recent findings showed that chronic infection of the host with P. gingivalis leads to the induction of subpopulations of MDCS that differ in their ability to suppress the proliferation of T cells and in their ability to differentiate into osteoclasts. Along these lines, we have also done studies to delineate the molecular mechanism of P. gingivalis-mediated expansion of osteoclast precursors (OCP), and the role of OCP in regulating host immune responses and periodontal bone loss. In addition, I have been involved in studies related to the effect of P. gingivalis on aging since aging is a risk factor for periodontal disease and microbial infections. Lastly, my attention has turned to studies involving the development of a new delivery system for oral vaccines that protects the vaccine proteins as they pass through the stomach and the lumen of the intestine. The prototype under development will target enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli infections as they are a major cause of death in children in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa and the major cause of diarrhea in tourists and military personnel traveling to the developing world. To date, no vaccine has been licensed for the prevention of enterotoxigenic E. coli infections.