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Soman Ninan Abraham, PhD

Grace Kerby Distinguished Professor of Pathology
Campus Mail: 255 Jones Bldg, Durham, NC 27710
Phone: (919) 684-3630

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

Selected Grants and Awards

Selected Publications

Arifuzzaman, Mohammad, Yuvon R. Mobley, Hae Woong Choi, Pradeep Bist, Cristina A. Salinas, Zachary D. Brown, Swaine L. Chen, Herman F. Staats, and Soman N. Abraham. “MRGPR-mediated activation of local mast cells clears cutaneous bacterial infection and protects against reinfection.” Sci Adv 5, no. 1 (January 2019): eaav0216.

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Choi, Hae Woong, Jutamas Suwanpradid, Il Hwan Kim, Herman F. Staats, Muzlifah Haniffa, Amanda S. MacLeod, and Soman N. Abraham. “Perivascular dendritic cells elicit anaphylaxis by relaying allergens to mast cells via microvesicles.” Science 362, no. 6415 (November 9, 2018).

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Jin, Cong, Christopher P. Shelburne, Guojie Li, Erin N. Potts, Kristina J. Riebe, Gregory D. Sempowski, W Michael Foster, and Soman N. Abraham. “Particulate allergens potentiate allergic asthma in mice through sustained IgE-mediated mast cell activation.” J Clin Invest 128, no. 10 (October 1, 2018): 4742–43.

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Arifuzzaman, Mohammad, WX Gladys Ang, Hae Woong Choi, Matthew L. Nilles, Ashley L. St John, and Soman N. Abraham. “Necroptosis of infiltrated macrophages drives Yersinia pestis dispersal within buboes.” Jci Insight 3, no. 18 (September 20, 2018).

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Miao, Yuxuan, Pradeep Bist, Jianxuan Wu, Qing Zhao, Qi-Jing Li, Ying Wan, and Soman N. Abraham. “Collaboration between Distinct Rab Small GTPase Trafficking Circuits Mediates Bacterial Clearance from the Bladder Epithelium.” Cell Host Microbe 22, no. 3 (September 13, 2017): 330-342.e4.

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Choi, Hae Woong, Samantha E. Bowen, Yuxuan Miao, Cheryl Y. Chan, Edward A. Miao, Magnus Abrink, Adam J. Moeser, and Soman N. Abraham. “Loss of Bladder Epithelium Induced by Cytolytic Mast Cell Granules.” Immunity 45, no. 6 (December 20, 2016): 1258–69.

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Ang, WX Gladys, Alison M. Church, Mike Kulis, Hae Woong Choi, A Wesley Burks, and Soman N. Abraham. “Mast cell desensitization inhibits calcium flux and aberrantly remodels actin.” J Clin Invest 126, no. 11 (November 1, 2016): 4103–18.

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Miao, Yuxuan, Jianxuan Wu, and Soman N. Abraham. “Ubiquitination of Innate Immune Regulator TRAF3 Orchestrates Expulsion of Intracellular Bacteria by Exocyst Complex.” Immunity 45, no. 1 (July 19, 2016): 94–105.

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Abraham, S. N., and W. J. Miao Y. “Ubiquitination of TRAF3 Orchestrates Expulsion of Intracellular Bacteria by Exocyst Complex (Accepted).” Immunity, 2016.


Miao, Yuxuan, Guojie Li, Xiaoli Zhang, Haoxing Xu, and Soman N. Abraham. “A TRP Channel Senses Lysosome Neutralization by Pathogens to Trigger Their Expulsion.” Cell 161, no. 6 (June 4, 2015): 1306–19.

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St John, Ashley L., WX Gladys Ang, Min-Nung Huang, Christian A. Kunder, Elizabeth W. Chan, Michael D. Gunn, and Soman N. Abraham. “S1P-Dependent trafficking of intracellular yersinia pestis through lymph nodes establishes Buboes and systemic infection.” Immunity 41, no. 3 (September 18, 2014): 440–50.

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