Alex Ensminger, PhD

Associate Professor

The Ensminger laboratory studies the evolution of microbial pathogens and how they persist within our environment (natural and manmade). Our focus to date has been on Legionella pneumophila, an intracellular bacterial pathogen, but are now applying our expertise towards the study of other bacteria. Our research falls into three general aims. 1. Understanding how a novel class of bacterial effectors (metaeffectors) contributes to intracellular replication of Legionella pneumophila and other pathogens. 2. Identifying environmental threats to Legionella pneumophila by characterizing a diverse set of endogenous CRISPR-Cas defenses. 3. Using experimental evolution and genomics to identify modulators of pathogen host range.

Selected Publications:

  1. Valleau D, Quaile AT, Cui H, Xu X, Evdokimova E, Chang C, Cuff ME, Urbanus ML, Houliston S, Arrowsmith CH, Ensminger AW, Savchenko A. Discovery of Ubiquitin Deamidases in the Pathogenic Arsenal of Legionella pneumophila. Cell Rep. 2018 Apr 10;23(2):568-583. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.03.060. PubMed PMID: 29642013.
  2. Urbanus ML, Quaile AT, Stogios PJ, Morar M, Rao C, Di Leo R, Evdokimova E, Lam M, Oatway C, Cuff ME, Osipiuk J, Michalska K, Nocek BP, Taipale M, Savchenko A, Ensminger AW. Diverse mechanisms of metaeffector activity in an intracellular bacterial pathogen, Legionella pneumophila. Mol Syst Biol. 2016 Dec16;12(12):893. doi: 10.15252/msb.20167381. PubMed PMID: 27986836.
  3. Rao C, Chin D, Ensminger AW. Priming in a permissive type I-C CRISPR-Cas system reveals distinct dynamics of spacer acquisition and loss. RNA. 2017
    Oct;23(10):1525-1538. doi: 10.1261/rna.062083.117. Epub 2017 Jul 19. PubMed PMID: 28724535.
  4. Rao C, Guyard C, Pelaz C, Wasserscheid J, Bondy-Denomy J, Dewar K, Ensminger AW. Active and adaptive Legionella CRISPR-Cas reveals a recurrent challenge to the pathogen. Cell Microbiol. 2016 Oct;18(10):1319-38. doi: 10.1111/cmi.12586. Epub 2016 Mar 31. PubMed PMID: 26936325.
  5. Ensminger AW, Yassin Y, Miron A, Isberg RR. Experimental evolution of Legionella pneumophila in mouse macrophages leads to strains with altered determinants of environmental survival. PLoS Pathog. 2012;8(5):e1002731. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002731. Epub 2012 May 31. PubMed PMID: 22693450.