University of Minnesota
MICaB Graduate Program
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Current Students

Alex Villarreal

Thesis Advisor:

Year entered: 2017

Degrees received:
B.S., University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2017


Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition resulting from the loss of function of the CFTR membrane proteins, and leading to the accumulation of viscous mucin in the airways that results in chronic inflammation and infection. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a canonical airway pathogen frequently found in these chronic infections, and has demonstrated an inability to sustain its nutrient requirements on mucin as a sole carbon source. Rather, it requires the presence of mucin-degrading anaerobes to produce mucin degradation products for use as a nutrient source. This cross-feeding relationship has been shown to elicit the production of vital pathogenesis related virulence factors from Pseudomonas, such as pyocyanin. Interestingly, when Pseudomonas is grown on the mucin byproducts of anaerobes derived from clinical patient samples, virulence factor production varies greatly between patients. My work in the Hunter lab focuses on investigating the cause of this varied virulence factor expression, and exploring the broader picture of the role of pulmonary microbial community composition in Pseudomonas aeruginosa virulence in the cystic fibrosis airways.