The Alto Laboratory is interested in the cross-species communication between bacterial pathogens and human signal transduction systems. Many bacteria mediate infectious diseases by changing the biochemical events in the host cell interior. In a 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 the 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, and model genetic systems to study the actions of bacterial virulence factors.