Mary Ann McDowell

Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
M.S., University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Post-doctoral Fellowship, National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases

The overriding research interest in the laboratory is the immunobiology of infectious diseases. My current research program mainly focuses on two vector-transmitted, intracellular parasites, Leishmania and Plasmodium. Projects in the laboratory are aimed at deciphering the intricate interactions between the vertebrate immune system, pathogens and vector components that lead to disease resistance or susceptibility. Our research utilizes methods in cell biology, immunology, and molecular biology; we employ a variety of model systems ranging from, in vitro culture systems to murine models to endemic human populations. Current projects in the laboratory include:

  • Pinpointing the signal transduction pathways that are modulated by _Leishmania _infections, focusing on the pathways that modulate IL-12.
  • Identification of the host and parasite factors that mediate _Leishmania _species-specific IL-12 production in human dendritic cells.
  • Comparing the responses of human macrophages and dendritic cells to L. major and L. donovani infection using Affymetrix gene chip analysis.
  • Defining the role that host pattern recognition receptors play in leishmanial and malarial disease.
  • Projects examining the idea that chronic infectious agents exploit a specific natural immunoregulatory mechanism to suppress host immunity.
  • We have initiated studies investigating vitamin deficiency in experimental leishmaniasis.

We have two projects that investigate the role of vector components on the immune response.

  • One project investigates the effect of mosquito saliva components in the outcome of murine malaria.
  • The second vector-based project is aimed at discovering sand fly factors that elicit immune responses in human populations in hopes of targeting these factors to develop a Leishmania vaccine that achieves durable protection. Inherent in the second project is elucidating the underlying population structure of sand fly populations in the Middle East.

Selected Publications

  1. Coutinho-Abreu, I.V., R.M. Mukbel, H. Hanafi,  E. Fawaz, S. El-Hossary, M. Wadsworth, G. Stayback, M. Abo-Shedada, D. Hoel, S. Kamhawi, M. Ramalho-Ortigao, and M.A. McDowell.  Expression plasticity of Phlebotomus papatasi salivary gland genes in distinct ecotopes through the sand fly season. BMC Ecology, In press.
  1. Whitcomb, J.P M. DeAgostino, M. Ballentine, J. Fu, M. Tenniswood, J. Welsh, M. Cantorna and M.A. McDowell.  The role of Vitamin D during in vivo Leishmania major infection.  J. of Parasitology Research, In Press.
  1. McDowell, M.A., S.R. Rafati, M. Ramalho-Ortigao, and A. Ben Salah.  Leishmaniasis:  Middle East and North Africa Research and Development Priorities.  PloS Negl Trop Dis., 5(7): e1219, 2011.
  1. Martins, G.F., M. Ramalho-Orgtigao, N.F. Lobo, D. Severson, M.A. McDowell, and P.F.P. Pimenta.  Insights into the transcriptome of Aedes aegypti oenocytes.  Mem. Inst. Oswaldo Cruz, 106(3): 308-315, 2011.
  1. Coutinho-Abreu, I.V. , M. Wadsworth, G. Stayback, M. Ramalho-Ortigao, and M.A. McDowell.  Differential expression of salivary gland-encoding genes in the female sand fly Phlebotomus papatasi. J. Med. Ent., 47(6):1146-55, 2010.
  1. Carter, C.R., M.J. Donovan, J. Campbell, and M.A. McDowell.  The role of CR3 during in vivo Leishmania major infection.  Inf. & Imm., 77(12):5668-5675, 2009.
  1. Donovan, M.J., B. Z. Macubia, C.E.. Mahan and M.A. McDowell.  Inhibition of macrophage apoptosis by Leishmania infection is strain specific.  Parasite Immunol., 123(1):58-64, 2009.
  1. Bruce, D., J.P. Whitcomb, A. August, M.A. McDowell, and M.T. Cantorna.  Vitamin D receptor is not required for primary or secondary immune responses to Listeria monocytogenes.  Int. Immunol., 21(2):113-122, 2008.
  1. Spath, G.F., M.A. McDowell, and S.M. Beverley.  Leishmania major intracellular survival is not altered in SHP-1 deficient mev or CD45-/- mice.  Experimental Parasitology, 120(3):275-279, 2008.
  1. Jayakumar, A., M. Donovan, M. Ortigao and M.A. McDowell.  Transcriptional induction of IL-12 in human DC infected with Leishmania major involves IRF-1 and IRF-8.  Infection and Immunity, 76(5): 2138-2148, 2008.
  1. Jayakumar, A., Widenmaier, R., Ma, X., and M.A. McDowell.  Inhibition of interleukin-12 by Leishmania infection is lipophosphoglcan-independent.  Journal of Parasitology, 29(1): 84-93, 2008. 
  1. Donovan, M.J., A. Jayakumar, and M.A. McDowell.  Inhibition of groups 1 and 2 CD1 molecules on human dendritic cells by Leishmania species.  Parasite Immunology, 29(10): 515-524, 2007.
  1. *Donovan, M.J., A.S. Messmore, D.A. Scrafford, D.L. Sacks, S. Kamhawi, and M.A. McDowell.  Uninfected mosquito bites confer protection against malaria infections.  Infection and Immunity, 75(5):2523-2530, 2007.  *This article was highlighted in several other press publications including, New Scientist, Vaccine Rx, The Naked Scientists, MicrobeWorld radio, JAMA, and Microbe.
  1. Akilov, O.E., M.J.. Donovan, T. Stepinac, C.R.. Carter, J.P. Whitcomb, T. Hasan and M.A. McDowell.  T helper type 1 cytokines and keratinocyte growth factor play a critical role in pseudoepiteliomatous hyperplasia initiation during cutaneous leishmaniasis.  Archives of Dermatological Research, 299(7):315-325, 2007.
  1. Akilov, O.E., R.E. Kasuboski, C.R. Carter and M.A. McDowell.  Mannose receptor during experimental cutaneous leishmaniasis.  Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 81(5):1188-1196, 2007.