Science Center 124
Associate Professor of Biology/Coordinator of Undergraduate Research
Ph.D., Indiana University
B.S., Hillsdale College
Dr. Andrew Russell joined NSU's faculty in 2014.
Cell and Molecular Biology
Biology of Beer
Microbial biofilm formation
Disease resistance mechanisms
Genetic and molecular basis of host specificity
Intersection between symbiosis and pathogenicity
Summary of Research Interests
For several years, I have been researching the molecular mechanisms underlying host-microbe interactions. Specifically, my work has focused on two main questions: 1.) How do pathogens use molecular weaponry to promote virulence on susceptible hosts, and 2.) How do resistant hosts detect pathogen molecules to trigger an immune response?
My research has shown that the answers to these questions often go hand-in-hand; a pathogen protein that promotes growth on a susceptible host frequently activates defenses in a resistant host. Consequently, a pathogen must have the right combination of molecular weapons to evade host defenses. Not enough fire power and you will be overwhelmed by the host's arsenal. Too many weapons and you lose your ability to fly under the radar of host detection mechanisms.
Most of the focus in my field has been on studying how a single molecular weapon can influence pathogen growth. While it is important to know how these weapons function individually, a pathogen never uses one at a time. Natural isolates contain numerous weapons that are deployed simultaneously. So, how do these weapons work together to promote virulence? Can one weapon mask the effect of another to prevent host detection?
Similarly, most research in the field has not taken into account that the host is influenced by interactions with multiple microbial species at once. How these other species influence a pathogen's ability to colonize the host is largely unknown. Do symbiotic organisms impact the virulence of a pathogen on the same host? Can two pathogenic species work together to make a host more susceptible to invasion? My current research projects are aimed at answering these questions in an effort to illuminate the fine line separating harmful and beneficial microorganisms.
Recently, I have also begun researching biofilm formation. Biofilms are microbial communities that stick to biotic and abiotic surfaces. This type of social interaction can benefit microbes in a number of ways such as: becoming more infectious, resisting antimicrobial compounds, or coordinating common tasks. Currently, I am testing the dynamics of biofilm formation on contact lenses and investigating ways to disrupt it. Such research helps in the prevention of eye diseases such as keratitus. Similarly, I am studying how biofilms form in the beer draft lines and what measures can be used to prevent their formation. This research is a direct benefit to the brewing industry.
Russell AR, Ashfield T, Innes RW (2015). "Pseudomonas syringae Effector AvrPphB Suppresses AvrB-Induced Activation of RPM1 but Not AvrRpm1-Induced Activation." Mol Plant Microbe Interact 28: 727-735
Ashfield T, Redditt T, Russell A, Kessens R, Rodibaugh N, Galloway L, Kang Q, Podicheti R, Innes RW (2014). "Evolutionary relationship of disease resistance genes in soybean and Arabidopsis specific for the Pseudomonas syringae effectors AvrB and AvrRpm1." Plant Physiol 166: 235-251