Daniel A. Portnoy

University of California, Berkeley


Election Year: 2013
Primary Section: 44, Microbial Biology
Membership Type: Member

Biosketch

Daniel A. Portnoy is a Professor at the University of California, Berkeley with joint appointments in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and the School of Public Health. He is a microbiologist and immunologist whose research focuses on the pathogenesis and immunobiology of intracellular pathogens, specifically the facultative intracellular bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes. Dr. Portnoy was born in Syracuse, New York, and grew up in Los Angeles. He majored in bacteriology at UCLA and received his PhD in microbiology & immunology from the University of Washington, also spending two years in absentia at Stanford University. He was a postdoctoral fellow in cellular physiology and immunology at the Rockefeller University and a faculty member at Washington University and the University of Pennsylvania before moving to UC Berkeley in 1997 where he is currently the Faculty Director of UC Berkeley's Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases and the Principal Investigator for an NIAID P01 grant on innate immunity and intracellular pathogens.

Research Interests

Dr. Portnoy is a microbiologist and immunologist whose research focuses on the pathogenesis and immunobiology of intracellular pathogens, specifically the facultative intracellular bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes. His lab has been instrumental in the identification and characterization of bacterial determinants that allow this fascinating microorganism to infect mammalian cells, escape from a membrane-bound compartment, grow rapidly in the host cell cytosol, and exploit a host system of actin-based motility to spread from cell to cell. Among the important concepts to emerge from this research is the observation that L. monocytogenes infection does not lead to appreciable cell death, while mutants that kill their host cell or strains engineered to activate host cell death pathways are avirulent. Infection with L. monocytogenes also leads to the rapid development of cell-mediated immunity. Portnoy showed that immune cells have a cytosolic surveillance pathway that recognizes c-di-AMP, an essential bacterial signaling molecule, secreted through multidrug resistance efflux transporters where it activates the host STING protein. Portnoy has exploited the above bacterial properties and engineered attenuated L. monocytogenes strains that express foreign antigens and induce cell-mediated immunity. Numerous clinical trials based on these discoveries have shown promising results as immunotherapeutic treatments for cancer.

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