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Soman Ninan Abraham, PhD

Professor in Pathology
Campus Mail: 255 Jones Bldg, Durham, NC 27710
Phone: (919) 684-3630
Email: soman.abraham@duke.edu

The Abraham laboratory is interested in developing innovative approaches for curbing microbial infections through the study of the molecular interactions occurring between pathogenic bacteria and prominent immune and epithelial cells. We believe that there is a significant amount of crosstalk occurring between bacteria and host cells during infection and that the outcome of this interaction dictates both how quickly the infection is cleared and the severity of the pathology associated with the infection. We also believe that through deciphering this crosstalk we should be able to selectively promote certain beneficial interactions while abrogating the harmful ones.

There are two major research areas being pursued in this laboratory. The first involves elucidating the role of mast cells in modulating immune responses to microbes.  Our studies have revealed that mast cells play a key sentinel role and upon bacterial or viral infection, modulate both innate and adaptive immune responses through the release of immunomodulatory molecules borne in granules. Our current investigations are centered on elucidating the molecular and cellular aspects of how mast cells mediate their immunomodulatory role. We are also examining several mast cell-targeted strategies to boost immunity to infections as well as reduce any pathological consequences of infection.

The second area of research investigates cross-talk between distinct infectious agents such as Uropathogenic E. coli, Salmonella typhimurium and Yersinia pestis and the immune system. We have recognized that different pathogens possess distinct mechanisms to evade or coopt one or more immune cells to establish infection. We have also unraveled novel intracellular innate host defense activities including expulsion of whole bacteria from infected epithelial cells, a feat mediated by immune recognition molecules and the cellular trafficking system.

Cumulatively, our studies should facilitate the design of innovative strategies to combat pathogens that selectively potentiate the host’s immune response without evoking some of its harmful side effects.

Education and Training

  • Clinical Director, Serology, Washington University, 1993 - 1997
  • Assistant Professor, Molecular Microbiology, Washington University, 1990 - 1997
  • Associate Clinical Director, Microbiology/Serology, Washington University, 1990 - 1993
  • Assistant Professor Of Pathology, Microbiology And Immunology, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, 1990 - 1990
  • Assistant Professor, Medicine, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, 1986 - 1990
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, 1982 - 1986
  • Ph.D., Newcastle University, 1981
  • M.S., Ahmadu Bello University (Nigeria), 1978
  • B.S., Ahmadu Bello University (Nigeria), 1976

Selected Publications

Abraham, SN, and St John, AL. "Mast cell-orchestrated immunity to pathogens." Nat Rev Immunol 10, no. 6 (June 2010): 440-452. (Review)

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Hofmann, AM, and Abraham, SN. "New roles for mast cells in modulating allergic reactions and immunity against pathogens." Current opinion in immunology 21, no. 6 (December 2009): 679-686. (Review)

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St John, AL, and Abraham, SN. "Salmonella disrupts lymph node architecture by TLR4-mediated suppression of homeostatic chemokines." Nat Med 15, no. 11 (November 2009): 1259-1265.

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Kunder, CA, St John, AL, Li, G, Leong, KW, Berwin, B, Staats, HF, and Abraham, SN. "Mast cell-derived particles deliver peripheral signals to remote lymph nodes." J Exp Med 206, no. 11 (October 26, 2009): 2455-2467.

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Shelburne, CP, Nakano, H, St John, AL, Chan, C, McLachlan, JB, Gunn, MD, Staats, HF, and Abraham, SN. "Mast cells augment adaptive immunity by orchestrating dendritic cell trafficking through infected tissues." Cell Host Microbe 6, no. 4 (October 22, 2009): 331-342.

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Song, J, Bishop, BL, Li, G, Grady, R, Stapleton, A, and Abraham, SN. "TLR4-mediated expulsion of bacteria from infected bladder epithelial cells." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106, no. 35 (September 1, 2009): 14966-14971.

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Zaas, DW, Swan, ZD, Brown, BJ, Li, G, Randell, SH, Degan, S, Sunday, ME, Wright, JR, and Abraham, SN. "Counteracting signaling activities in lipid rafts associated with the invasion of lung epithelial cells by Pseudomonas aeruginosa." J Biol Chem 284, no. 15 (April 10, 2009): 9955-9964.

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McLachlan, JB, Shelburne, CP, Hart, JP, Pizzo, SV, Goyal, R, Brooking-Dixon, R, Staats, HF, and Abraham, SN. "Mast cell activators: a new class of highly effective vaccine adjuvants." Nat Med 14, no. 5 (May 2008): 536-541.

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Song, J, and Abraham, SN. "TLR-mediated immune responses in the urinary tract." Curr Opin Microbiol 11, no. 1 (February 2008): 66-73. (Review)

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Song, J, Bishop, BL, Li, G, Duncan, MJ, and Abraham, SN. "TLR4-initiated and cAMP-mediated abrogation of bacterial invasion of the bladder." Cell Host Microbe 1, no. 4 (June 14, 2007): 287-298.

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Bishop, BL, Duncan, MJ, Song, J, Li, G, Zaas, D, and Abraham, SN. "Cyclic AMP-regulated exocytosis of Escherichia coli from infected bladder epithelial cells." Nat Med 13, no. 5 (May 2007): 625-630.

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Song, J, Duncan, MJ, Li, G, Chan, C, Grady, R, Stapleton, A, and Abraham, SN. "A novel TLR4-mediated signaling pathway leading to IL-6 responses in human bladder epithelial cells." PLoS Pathog 3, no. 4 (April 2007): e60-.

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Shin, J-S, Shelburne, CP, Jin, C, LeFurgey, EA, and Abraham, SN. "Harboring of particulate allergens within secretory compartments by mast cells following IgE/FcepsilonRI-lipid raft-mediated phagocytosis." J Immunol 177, no. 9 (November 1, 2006): 5791-5800.

Scholars@Duke

Zaas, DW, Duncan, M, Rae Wright, J, and Abraham, SN. "The role of lipid rafts in the pathogenesis of bacterial infections." Biochim Biophys Acta 1746, no. 3 (December 30, 2005): 305-313. (Review)

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Duncan, MJ, Mann, EL, Cohen, MS, Ofek, I, Sharon, N, and Abraham, SN. "The distinct binding specificities exhibited by enterobacterial type 1 fimbriae are determined by their fimbrial shafts." J Biol Chem 280, no. 45 (November 11, 2005): 37707-37716.

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