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Research in my laboratory investigates chemical, stress and nutritional signaling at the interface amongst the mammalian host, beneficial microbiota and invading pathogens. We devise a multi-disciplinary research program utilizing genetic, biochemical, chemical and structural approaches to investigate fundamental biological questions. Our research over the years has focused on:

 1) Bacterial cells sense several mammalian neurotransmitters as a means to gage the physiological and immune state of the host, leading to rewiring and reprogramming of bacterial transcription towards host and niche adaptation. We have also identified several bacterial  adrenergic, endocannabinoid and serotonergic receptors.

 2) We have shown that these bacterial neurotransmitter receptors also sense bacterial signals, such as the novel pirazynone family of AI-3 autoinducers, and indole, which in turn influence mammalian cell signaling, linking inter-kingdom chemical communication at the biochemical level. These studies highlight the co-evolution and the fundamental relationship between mammals and microbes, and that these signaling systems fully integrate bacterial and mammalian cell-behavior.

 3) We also reported that invading pathogens can hijack these inter-kingdom signaling systems to promote virulence expression. We translated these basic science concepts into strategies to develop a novel approach to anti-virulence therapies.

 4) Our work also explored how different chemical signaling systems shape bacterial/host relationships towards commensalism or pathogenesis. This work shows that different chemical relationships define the nature of host/bacterial associations.

 5) We have also shown that enteric pathogens exploit nutritional cues (Carbon, aminoacids and/or nitrogen sources) made available by the gut microbiota as signals to coordinate virulence regulation and modify the pathogen’s metabolism allowing for efficient host colonization.

6) Moreover the cross-signaling with neurotransmitters, which is a key event I the gut-brain-axis, can also lead to new insights into drug addiction, and repurposing of agonists and antagonists of the adrenergic, serotonergic and endocannabinoid systems as potential novel anti-bacterial therapies.


Graduate School
Unlisted - International Colle
Graduate School
Campinas State University (1995), Molecular Biology

Research Interest

  • addiction and the microbiome
  • Bacterial pathogenesis
  • Bacterial virulence gene expression
  • E. coli O157:H7
  • gut brain axis
  • Inter-kingdom signaling
  • pathogen-microbiota-host interactions
  • Quorum sensing


Featured Publications LegendFeatured Publications

Taming the beast: Interplay between gut small molecules and enteric pathogens.
Kumar A, Ellermann M, Sperandio V, Infect. Immun. 2019 Jul
Indole Signaling at the Host-Microbiota-Pathogen Interface.
Kumar A, Sperandio V, MBio 2019 Jun 10 3
Microbiota and Pathogen Proteases Modulate Type III Secretion Activity in Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli.
Cameron EA, Curtis MM, Kumar A, Dunny GM, Sperandio V MBio 2018 12 9 6
Redox, amino acid, and fatty acid metabolism intersect with bacterial virulence in the gut.
Pifer R, Russell RM, Kumar A, Curtis MM, Sperandio V Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2018 Oct
Pathogens' adaptation to the human host.
Sperandio V Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2018 09 115 38 9342-9343
Bacteriophage Transcription Factor Cro Regulates Virulence Gene Expression in Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli.
Hernandez-Doria JD, Sperandio V Cell Host Microbe 2018 05 23 5 607-617.e6
Complete Genome Sequence of Escherichia albertii Strain 1551-2, a Potential Extracellular and Intracellular Pathogen.
Romão FT, Hernandes RT, Ooka T, Hayashi T, Sperandio V, Gomes TAT Genome Announc 2018 Mar 6 9
The QseG lipoprotein impacts the virulence of enterohemorrhagic E. coli and Citrobacter rodentium and regulates flagellar phase variation in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium.
Cameron EA, Gruber CC, Ritchie JM, Waldor MK, Sperandio V Infect. Immun. 2018 Jan
Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli outwits hosts through sensing small molecules.
Carlson-Banning KM, Sperandio V Curr. Opin. Microbiol. 2017 Dec 41 83-88
"Bacterial chat: intestinal metabolites and signals in host-microbiota-pathogen interactions".
Lustri BC, Sperandio V, Moreira CG Infect. Immun. 2017 Sep


Featured Books Legend Featured Books

Honors & Awards

  • NIH Merit award
    grant Meirt award (2017-2027)
  • ASM Eli-Lilly and Company-Elanco research award
    Oldest and most pretigious ASM research award (2015-2015)
  • GSK Discovery Fast Track challenge program
    drug discovery award (2014-2015)
  • Fellow American Academy of Microbiology
    Fellow of the AAM (2013)
  • Kavli Fellow
    Kavli Frontiers of Science National Academies of Science (2007)
  • Burroughs Wellcome Fund
    Investigator in Pathogenesis of Infectious Diseases (2006)
  • Ellison Foundation Award
    New Scholar of Infectious diseases (2004)
  • Dam Charitable Foundation
    Travel Grant (2000)
  • Pew Charitable Foundation
    Pew Latin american fellow (1997)

Professional Associations/Affiliations

  • Vanessa Sperandio (2001-2020)