Michael Nehls

Program: Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis

Current advisor: Christina L. Stallings, PhD

Undergraduate university: University of Colorado-Boulder

Research summary
I study the role of Sptlc2 in innate immune cells during Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection. Sptlc2 is a component of the enzyme required for the first and rate-limiting step of sphingolipid biosynthesis. Mutations in Sptlc2 can cause a rare neuropathic disease (HSAN1) in humans that is associated with increased risk of infection. However, the immunological basis for increased susceptibility to infection remains unknown. We have found that loss of Sptlc2 in myeloid cells results in early death of mice infected with Mtb, establishing Sptlc2 as a novel host determinant of Mtb disease susceptibility. In preliminary studies, it appears that there are minimal changes to cellular inflammation outside of monocytes and macrophages, with near ablation of alveolar macrophages. Future studies will determine the role of Sptlc2 in monocytes and macrophages and its contribution to immunity against Mtb infection.

Graduate publications
Kinsella RL, Nehls EM, Stallings CL. 2018 Roles for Autophagy Proteins in Immunity and Host Defense. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 55(3):366-373. PMC Journal – In Process.