Yong Cheng Research Assistant Professor

Host-pathogen Interactions in Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infection
Yong Cheng

Research Interests:

Approximately one third of world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis (TB) and although only 5 to 10% of infected individuals develop active disease this nevertheless results 9 million new TB cases and 1.4 million deaths annually. While the development of novel technologies such as diagnostic platforms have advanced the global control of TB it still remains the leading cause of death by a single infectious organism.

My research interest is focused on understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms of the host-pathogen interactions during an M. tuberculosis infection. M. tuberculosis is an intracellular bacterial pathogen, and primarily resides and replicates within alveolar macrophages in the lung. It has evolved multiple capacities to evade macrophage defense mechanisms such as inhibiting phagosome maturation and INFγ-mediated macrophage activation. The interplay between M. tuberculosis and host cells can result in three conditions: 1) elimination of infection, 2) latent TB infection (LTBI) and 3) active TB disease. The precise determinants to define which of these outcome occurs within an infected individual remains to be elucidated.

Nucleated cells including M. tuberculosis-infected macrophages release nano-scale membrane vesicles called exosomes, which upon release gain access to all body fluids including blood, urine, breast milk and saliva. Interestingly, exosomes released from M. tuberculosis-infected macrophages contain mycobacterial components including lipids, proteins and RNAs. While the precisely physiological function of these exosomes during an M. tuberculosis infection remains to be defined, these vesicles provide a novel source for innovative TB vaccines and diagnostic platforms. One main area of my research has focused on deciphering the role of exosomes in M. tuberculosis pathogenesis, and the development of exosome-based TB vaccines and diagnostic techniques using cutting-edge technologies.

Another area of study involves the development of antimicrobials against M. tuberculosis and M. avium complex (MAC) in collaboration with Dr. Marvin J. Miller in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Notre Dame. The overall goal of the study is to develop novel, active and cost-effective anti-mycobacterial drugs for both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant strains of M. tuberculosis and MAC.



  • Research Assistant Professor, University of Notre Dame 2016-Present
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Notre Dame 2011-2016
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Basel, Switzerland 2007-2010
  • Ph.D. Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, China 2002-2007


Recent Papers:

  • Diaz, G., Bridges, C., Lucas, M., Cheng, Y., Schorey, J.S., Dobos, K.M., Kruh-Garcia, N.A., 2018. Protein Digestion, Ultrafiltration, and Size Exclusion Chromatography to Optimize the Isolation of Exosomes from Human Blood Plasma and Serum. J Vis Exp. https://doi.org/10.3791/57467
  • Cheng, Y., Liepert, L.D., Waller, J., Leevy, W.M., Schorey, J.S., 2017. A novel method for intratracheal injection of infectious agents into mice. Lab Anim 51, 530–533.
  • Cheng, Y., Schorey, J.S., Zhang, C.-C., Tan, X., 2017. Protein Kinase Inhibitors as Potential Antimicrobial Drugs Against Tuberculosis, Malaria and HIV. Curr. Pharm. Des. 23, 4369–4389.
  • Smith, V.L., Cheng, Y., Bryant, B.R., Schorey, J.S., 2017. Exosomes function in antigen presentation during an in vivo Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. Sci Rep 7.
  • Moraski GC, Cheng Y., Cho S, Cramer JW, Godfrey A, et al. (2016) Imidazo[1,2-a]Pyridine-3-Carboxamides Are Active Antimicrobial Agents against Mycobacterium avium Infection In Vivo. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 60: 5018-5022.
  • Cheng Y, Schorey JS (2016) Targeting soluble proteins to exosomes using a ubiquitin tag. Biotechnol Bioeng 113: 1315-1324.
  • Schorey JS, Cheng Y, Singh PP, Smith VL (2015) Exosomes and other extracellular vesicles in host-pathogen interactions. EMBO Rep 16: 24-43.
  • Cheng Y, Moraski GC, Cramer J, Miller MJ, Schorey JS (2014) Bactericidal activity of an imidazo[1, 2-a]pyridine using a mouse M. tuberculosis infection model. PLoS One 9: e87483.
  • Cheng Y, Schorey JS (2013) Exosomes carrying mycobacterial antigens can protect mice against Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. Eur J Immunol 43: 3279-3290.
  • Cheng Y, Pieters J (2010) Novel proteasome inhibitors as potential drugs to combat tuberculosis. J Mol Cell Biol 2: 173-175.