Center for Oral Infectious Diseases

Dr. Carla Cugini

Dr. Carla Cugini

Dr. Carla Cugini is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Oral Biology. She received her B.S. in Biology in 2000 from the University of New Hampshire. Upon graduation, she began working as a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Jenifer Coburn at Tufts-New England Medical Center, identifying the molecular mechanisms by which Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, interacts with mammalian cells. In 2003, she entered the Molecular and Cellular Biology PhD program at Dartmouth Medical School, where she joined the lab of Dr. Deborah Hogan. There she studied the intercellular molecular interactions of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Candida albicans. After completing her thesis, she began her postdoctoral studies in the lab of Dr. Mary Ellen Davey at the Forsyth Institute in 2010. There she began studying the molecular mechanisms of Porphyromonas gingivalis biofilm development and capsule regulation. In 2014 she joined the faculty in the Department of Oral Biology.

In periodontal diseases there is a shift in the composition of the bacterial community of plaque (a natural biofilm) with marked out-growth of several key pathobionts that are common residents in the healthy oral cavity. The development and function of plaque microbiota depends on both cell-to-cell and small-molecule-mediated interactions, with a growing body of research addressing the nature of the signaling and mechanisms governing these interactions. The broad focus of the lab is to understand the molecular mechanisms that govern the in vivo inter-and intra-species interactions within the oral cavity and how they ultimately impact the host response. Porphyromonas gingivalis, a key pathobiont associated with periodontitis, serves as one foundation of these studies in understanding the molecular mechanisms of community biofilm development and pathogenesis. Using a combination of basic microbiological techniques, molecular biology, genetics, and biochemistry we will determine how P. gingivalis interacts with other organisms of the oral cavity and how the bacterium maintains itself in the plaque.

Recent Publications

Cugini C, Klepac-Ceraj V, Rackaityte E, Riggs JE, and Davey ME. 2013. Porphyromonas gingivalis: keeping the pathos out of the biont. J Oral Micro. 5.

Cugini C, Stephens DN, Nguyen D, Kantarci A, Davey ME. 2013. Arginine deiminase inhibits Porphyromonas gingivalis surface attachment. Microbiol. 159:275-85.

Cugini C, Priyadarshini R, Arndt A, Chen T, Tjorko N, Goodman SD, Davey ME. 2013. The nucleoid-associated protein HU-β affects global gene expression in Porphyromonas gingivalis. Microbiol. 159:219-29.

Alberti-Segui C, Arndt A, Cugini C, Priyadarshini R, Davey ME. 2010. HU protein affects transcription of surface polysaccharide synthesis genes in Porphyromonas gingivalis. J Bacteriol. 192:6217-29.

Christopher AB, Arndt A, Cugini C, Davey ME. 2010. A streptococcal effector protein that inhibits Porphyromonas gingivalis biofilm development. Microbiol. 156:3469-77.

Cugini C, Morales DK, Hogan DA. 2010. Candida albicans-produced farnesol stimulates Pseudomonas quinolone signal production in LasR-defective Pseudomonas aeruginosa strains. Microbiol. 156:3096-107.

Cugini C, Kolter, R, Hogan DA. Interdomain cross-talk. In: Chemical communication among bacteria. Winans SC, Bassler BL eds. ASM Press, Washington DC. March 2008.

Behera AK, Durand E, Cugini C, Antonara S, Bourassa L, Hildebrand E, Hu LT, Coburn J. 2008. Borrelia burgdorferi BBB07 interaction with integrin α3β1 stimulates production of pro-inflammatory mediators in primary human chondrocytes. Cell Microbiol. 10:320-31.

Cugini C, Calfee MW, Farrow JM III, Morales DK, Pesci EC, Hogan DA. 2007. Farnesol, a common sesquiterpene, inhibits PQS production in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Mol Microbiol. 65:896-906.

Coburn J and Cugini C. 2003. Targeted mutation of the outer membrane protein P66 disrupts attachment of the Lyme disease agent, Borrelia burgdorferi, to integrin αvβ3. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 100:7301-6.

Cugini C, Medrano M, Schwan TG, Coburn J. 2003. Regulation of expression of the Borrelia burgdorferi β3-chain integrin ligand, P66, in ticks and in culture. Infect Immun. 71:1001-7.

Coburn J, Medrano M, Cugini C. 2002. Borrelia burgdorferi and its tropisms for adhesion molecules in the joint. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 14:394-8.