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), Biochemistry
Graduate School
Oregon Health Science Uni (2003), Cell Biology

Research Interest

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


Featured Publications LegendFeatured Publications

Accessible cholesterol is localized in bacterial plasma membrane protrusions.
Abrams ME, Johnson KA, Radhakrishnan A, Alto NM, J Lipid Res 2020 Dec 61 12 1538
A systematic exploration of the interactions between bacterial effector proteins and host cell membranes.
Weigele BA, Orchard RC, Jimenez A, Cox GW, Alto NM Nat Commun 2017 Sep 8 1 532