Mary Ann McDowell Associate Professor

Immunoparasitology and Vector Biology
Mary Ann McDowell

Research Interests:

The overriding research focus in the laboratory is the biology of infectious diseases. Infections account for 16.2% of annual deaths worldwide, being responsible for 2 of 3 deaths in children under age 5. Successful control strategies to combat these devastating diseases must be multi-factorial, combining attacks on human infections and targeting diverse aspects of pathogen biology. This combinatorial approach provides the conceptual framework of our research program to investigate immunology, host cell-biology, pathogen diversity and insect vector biology, using both laboratory models and field-based studies. We exploit Leishmania infection as a model to address fundamental immunological and cell biology questions. We study both murine and human systems utilizing a range of immunological, biochemical and genomics techniques. In addition, our research program extends to address questions specific to the phlebotomine sand flies that transmit Leishmania and other insect vectors of human disease and to develop insecticides to control vector-borne diseases. On project evaluates the feasibility of using sand fly saliva as a vaccine component to combat leishmaniasis by assessing human immune responses to sand fly saliva and genetic variability of sand fly populations in the Middle East. Further, our laboratory coordinates an international effort to sequence the genome of two sand fly species. We also utilize insect-vector genome data for the identification and screening of novel insecticide targets and further characterize the role of these targets play in the biology of mosquitoes and sand flies.



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


Recent Papers:

  • Geraci, N.S., J.C. Tan, and M.A. McDowell. Characterization of microRNA Expression Profiles in Leishmania Infected Human Phagocytes. Parasite Immunology. 37(1):43-51, 2015.
  • Ramalho-Ortigao, M., Coutinho-Abreu, I.V., Balbino, V.Q., Figueiredo, C.A.S., Mukbel, R., Dayem, H., Hanafi, H.A., El-Hossary, S.S., Fawaz, E.E.Y., Abo-Shehada, M., Hoel, D.L., Stayback, G., Wadsworth, M., Lobo, N.F., Mahon, A.R., Kamhawi, S., Collins, F.H., McDowell, M.A. Phlebotomus papatasi SP15: mRNA expression variability and amino acid sequence polymorphisms of field populations with potential impact for vaccine development. Parasites and Vectors, 8(1): 298, 2015.
  • Favila, M.A., E. Zeng, Geraci, N.S., B. Harker, D. Condon, V. Tripathi, and M.A. McDowell. Human dendritic cells exhibit a pronounced type I IFN signature following Leishmania major infection that is required for IL-12 induction. J. Immunol., 192(12):5863-5872, 2014.
  • Kastner, K.W. , D.A. Shoue, G.L. Estiu, J. Wolford, M.F. Fuerst, L. D. Markley, J.A. Izaguirre and M.A. McDowell. Virtual Screening of the Anopheles gambiae Octopamine Receptor. Malaria Journal. 13:434-447, 2014.
  • Geraci, N.S., R. M. Mukbel, M.T. Kemp, M.N. Wadsworth, G.M. Stayback, M.M. Champion, M.A. Bernard, M. Abo-Shehada, I.V., Coutinho-Abreu, M. Ramalho-Ortigao, H.A. Hanafi, E.Y. Fawaz, S.S. El-Hossary, D.F. Hoel and M.A. McDowell. Profiling of human acquired immunity against the salivary Proteins of Phlebotomus papatasi reveals clusters of differential immunoreactivity. Amer. J. Trop. Hyg., 90(5):923-938, 2014.
  • Donovan, M.J., V. Tripathi, Favila, M.A., Geraci, N.S., M. Lange, W. Balhorn, and M.A. McDowell. Induction of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase in human dendritic cells by Leishmania infection suppresses T-cell responses. Parasite Immunology, 34(10): 464-472, 2013.
  • Ricardo-Carter, C.R. M. Favila, R.E. Polando, R.N. Cotton, K. Bogard-Horner D. Condon, W. Ballhorn, J.P. Whitcomb, M. Yadav, R.L. Geister, J.S. Schorey, and M.A. McDowell. Leishmania major inhibits IL-12 in macrophages by signaling through CR3 (CD11b/CD18) and down regulation of ETS-mediated transcription. Parasite Immunology, Parasite Immunol. 35(12): 409-420, 2013.
  • Polando, R., U.G. Dixit, C.C. Carter, B. Jones, J.P. Whitcomb, W. Balhorn, M. Harintho, C. Jerde, M.E. Wilson, and M.A. McDowell. The roles of complement receptor 3 and FcγReceptors during Leishmania phagosome maturation. J. Leuk. Biol. 93(6): 921-932, 2013.
  • Nowling, R.J., Abudan, J.L., Shoue, D.A., Abdul-Wahid, B., Wadsworth, M. Stayback, G., Collins, F.H., McDowell, M.A., and Izaguirre, J.A.. Analysis of arthropod vector G-protein coupled receptors using an improved pipeline. Parasites and Vectors 6:150, 2013.
  • Abrudan, J., Ramalho-Ortigao, M., O’Neil, S., Stayback, G. Wadsworth, M., Bernard, M., Shoue, D. Emrich, S., Lawyer, P., Kamhawi, S., Rowton, E.D., Lehane, M.J., Bates, P.A., Valenzuela, J.G., Tomlinson, C., Applebaum, E., Moeller, D., Thiesing, Dillon, R. Clifton, S., Lobo, N.F., Wilson R.K., Collins, F.H., McDowell, M.A., The characterization of the Phlebotomus papatasi transcriptome. Insect. Mol. Biol. 2013:22(2):211-232, 2013.
  • 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, 11:24, 2011.