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McKelvey School of Engineering

Brown School

BME Seminar: Katharina Ribbeck

Thursday, November 18, 2021 | 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Virtual Event

Presenting on “Partners in Slime: How Mucus Regulates Microbial Virulence”

Katharina Ribbeck, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Biological Engineering and Hyman Career Development Professor at MIT, will speak at 10:00 CST on Thursday, November 18, 2021. Registration is required. To register, click here

Abstract: Mucus is a biological gel that lines all wet epithelia in the body, including the mouth, lungs, and digestive tracts, and has evolved to protect us from pathogenic invasion. Microbial pathogenesis in these mucosal systems, however, is often studied in mucus- free environments, which lack the geometric constraints and microbial interactions that are found in natural, three- dimensional mucus gels. To bridge this gap, my laboratory has developed model test systems based on purified mucin polymers, the major gel-forming constituents of the mucus barrier, and their glycans. We use this model to understand how the mucus barrier influences microbial virulence, and moreover, to elucidate strategies used by microbes to overcome the normal protective mucus barrier. I will discuss data showing that the mucin polymers, and specifically their associated glycans, have a significant impact on the physiological behavior of microbes, including surface attachment, quorum sensing, the expression of virulence genes, and biofilm formation. The picture is emerging that mucin glycans are key host players in the regulation of microbial virulence and underscores the untapped therapeutic opportunities found in these host-derived molecules.

Host: Drs. Chao Zhou and Michael Vahey, Washington University in St. Louis

Parking is available outside of Whitaker Hall in the East End Garage. Click here for the map. If taking the subway, the nearest metrolink stop is Skinker.

Event Type



McKelvey School of Engineering


Science & Technology, Medicine & Health

Biomedical Engineering


Event Contact

Mimi Hilburg | mhilburg@wustl.edu

Speaker Information

Prof. Ribbeck obtained her Bachelor’s degree and her PhD in Biology from the University of Heidelberg, Germany. She continued her postdoctoral research at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany, and the Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School. Katharina Ribbeck established her independent research group as a Bauer Fellow at the FAS Center for Systems Biology, Harvard University in 2007, and joined the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT as an Assistant Professor in 2010.

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