Welcome to the Wilson Lab

Dr. Wilson's research studies address the molecular, cellular and immunobiology of infection with the Leishmania species protozoa. Human infection with these parasites leads to a wide spectrum of clinical syndromes. Both human immunogenetic and parasite-encoded virulence factors lead to divergent disease manifestations. Dr. Wilson’s studies focus on the contributions of both host and parasite molecular characteristics that determine the outcome of leishmaniasis.

Leishmania are spread through the bite of a sand fly vector, and reside intracellularly in macrophages in human or other mammalian hosts. The parasite causes dramatic changes in gene expression in the host phagocyte, and lab members are investigating host mRNAs, host microRNAs and the parasite encoded virulence molecules underlying these changes. Other projects utilize both murine models and cultured human cells to address the contributions of macrophages, monocyte subsets, neutrophils, dendritic cells and keratinocytes to the local immune responses. The group hypothesizes that Leishmania manipulate the local immune response through the release of exosomes containing virulence-related proteins into the host environment. Techniques of protein chemistry, mass spectrometry, confocal microscopy, gene knockout/transgenic parasites and in vivo imaging of luminescent or fluorescent parasites are used to address these goals.

Dr. Wilson also participates in two Tropical Medicine Research Centers that fund collaborative field studies in India and Brazil. The Wilson lab works toward application of molecular techniques to understand both human genetic and molecular parasitic determinants leading to the diverse forms of human leishmaniasis. Genotyping of subjects in large family studies in India and Brazil has revealed several immune-related genes potentially associated with the outcome of visceral leishmaniasis. Studies of parasite genomes, and polymorphisms within genomes, are revealing contributions of the parasite strain to pathologic changes observed in leishmaniasis.

Selected Recent Publications

All Publications