Neal Alto earned his PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology from the Oregon Health and Sciences University in 2003. He was then appointed as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of California San Diego. In 2007, he became an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology at UT Southwestern.

The Alto laboratory is interested in the cross species communication between bacterial pathogens and human signal transduction systems. Many bacteria mediate infectious disease by changing the biochemical events in the host cell interior. In once common scenario, bacteria inject virulence factors directly into a particular host cell compartment. These “effectors,” as they are commonly known, will chemically modify or directly mimic host-signaling enzymes such as kinases, phosphatases, or GTPases.

The changes in host cellular environment elicited by each bacterial effector protein are what alter the host physiology leading to severe infectious disease. Dr. Alto and his associates use recombinant DNA techniques, protein chemistry, model genetic systems to study the actions of bacterial virulence factors.


Western Washington University (1996), Cell Biology
Graduate School
Oregon Health Science University (2003), Cell Biology

Research Interest

  • Human Signal Transduction
  • Mechanisms of Toxins and Effectors
  • Microbioal Pathogenesis
  • Ras Super-family GTPases


Featured Publications LegendFeatured Publications

Enteropathogenic E. coli Effectors EspG1/G2 Disrupt Microtubules, Contribute to Tight Junction Perturbation and Inhibit Restoration.
Glotfelty LG, Zahs A, Hodges K, Shan K, Alto NM, Hecht GA Cell. Microbiol. 2014 Jun
Thinking outside the Osp(G)--kinase activation by E2-ubiquitin.
de Jong MF, Alto NM EMBO J. 2014 Jan
Subversion of cell signaling by pathogens.
Alto NM, Orth K Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol 2012 Sep 4 9 a006114