Kim Orth is a biochemist deciphering the mechanisms used by bacterial pathogens to manipulate the host. She is recognized for her elucidation of novel biochemical mechanisms that bacterial effectors use to modify host proteins including Ser/Thracetylation and AMPylation. Orth was born in Wisconsin and grew up primarily in Texas. She graduated from Texas A &M University with a Bachelor in biochemistry, UCLA with a Masters in biological chemistry and UT Southwestern Medical Center with a PhD in biochemistry. She did postdoctoral fellowships at University of Michigan while becoming the proud mother of two. In 2001, she joined the faculty in theDepartment of Molecular Biology at UT Southwestern Medical Center where she is currently a Professor. In 2015, Orth became an Investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Orth received a number of awards including the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Young Investigator Award, Burroughs Wellcome Investigator in Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease and Welch Foundation Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Science. Orth is a member of the American
Academy of Microbiology and of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

My lab is interested in elucidation the activity of virulence factors from pathogenic bacteria so that we can gain novel molecular insight into eukaryotic signaling systems. The marine bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus is the worldwide leading cause of seafood-borne acute gastroenteritis. We are working on the two V. parahaemolyticus type 3 secretion systems (T3SS1 and T3SS2) and their bacterial effectors to understand how signaling systems in the eukaryotic host can be manipulated by these bacterial pathogens. Each of the two T3SSs uses a unique repertoire of effectors to manipulate host signaling. The first T3SS1 is thought to be used maintain V. parahaemolyticus? survival in the environment, while the second T3SS2 is used for pathogenesis in an animal host. For decades, this pathogen has been studied exclusively as an extracellular bacterium. However, recent studies from our lab have revealed the pathogen?s ability to invade and replicate within host cells using the second T3SS2. These studies have elucidated novel evolutionarily conserved mechanism that used by both host and pathogen. One of these, AMPylation, is an important mechanism used for maintaining homeostasis by all metazoan cells when under stress. Our work at UT Southwestern is accomplished using a broad range of tools, including biochemistry, molecular microbiology, protein chemistry, structural biology, yeast genetics, cell biology and more.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 44: Microbial Biology

Secondary Section

Section 21: Biochemistry