Thomas L. Leto, Ph.D.
Chief, Molecular Defenses Section, LHD
The research conducted in this section is focused on the body’s capabilities of producing reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the roles of ROS in innate anti-microbial and inflammatory processes. This program originated with interests in the NADPH oxidase of phagocytes (phox system), the importance of which is evident in chronic granulomatous disease where inherited defects in ROS production render patients susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections and dysregulated inflammatory responses. Early work in this program identified phox genes affected in chronic granulomatous disease and characterized oxidase functional domains and signaling intermediates involved in its assembly and activation.
Current efforts are focused on homologous Nox family NADPH oxidases that produce ROS in a variety of tissues. ROS production by these enzymes is thought to serve diverse functions, including hormone and extracellular matrix biosynthesis, oxygen sensing, and cellular signaling involved in processes including apoptosis, cell senescence, and cellular responses to growth factors, hormones, or immune cytokines. Growing evidence suggests several of these novel oxidases also function in host defense and inflammatory responses, as they demonstrate high expression in epithelial cells, appear to be aimed toward the external environment, and support the activity of anti-microbial peroxidases on mucosal surfaces.
Nox family oxidases with potential host defense and inflammatory roles include hydrogen peroxide-generating dual oxidases (Duox1 and Duox2) detected in airways, exocrine glands, and the gastrointestinal tract and oxidases of the colon, kidney, and vascular cells (Nox1 and Nox4). Several oxidases are induced or activated by pro-inflammatory cytokines, by host recognition of pathogen-associated microbial patterns and in adaptive immune responses.
This group uses a variety of experimental approaches to explore mechanisms of deliberate ROS production and the biological and pathological consequences of this activity, ranging from studies in genetically-modified animal models or tissue and cell culture systems to work on protein structure-function relationships involved in regulated assembly and activation of ROS generators. Ongoing projects include:
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Dr. Leto received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Virginia for studies on mechanisms of cell membrane assembly. He followed this work with postdoctoral studies at Yale University on membrane cytoskeleton interactions. Dr. Leto joined NIAID in 1988 and became a senior investigator in the Laboratory of Host Defenses in 1996.
Special Interest Groups: Cell Biology, Structural Biology, Free Radical/Oxygen Club
Howard Boudreau, Ph.D.Jaeyul Kwon, Ph.D.Ryuichi Sugamata, Ph.D.Benjamin Casterline, B.S.Devin Burke, B.S.Jawara Allen, B.S.
Boudreau HE, Casterline BW, Rada B, Korzeniowska A, Leto TL. Nox4 involvement in TGF-beta and SMAD3-driven induction of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and migration of breast epithelial cells. Free Radic Biol Med. 2012 Jun 19. Epub ahead of print.
Rada B, Gardina P, Myers TG, Leto TL. Reactive oxygen species mediate inflammatory cytokine release and EGFR-dependent mucin secretion in airway epithelial cells exposed to Pseudomonas pyocyanin. Mucosal Immunol. 2011 Mar;4(2):158-71.
Rada B, Leto TL. Characterization of hydrogen peroxide production by Duox in bronchial epithelial cells exposed to Pseudomonas aeruginosa. FEBS Lett. 2010 Mar 5;584(5):917-22.
Boudreau HE, Emerson SU, Korzeniowska A, Jendrysik MA, Leto TL. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) proteins induce NADPH oxidase 4 expression in a transforming growth factor beta-dependent manner: a new contributor to HCV-induced oxidative stress. J Virol. 2009 Dec;83(24):12934-46.
Morand S, Ueyama T, Tsujibe S, Saito N, Korzeniowska A, Leto TL. Duox maturation factors form cell surface complexes with Duox affecting the specificity of reactive oxygen species generation. FASEB J. 2009 Apr;23(4):1205-18.
Rada B, Leto TL. Redox warfare between airway epithelial cells and Pseudomonas: dual oxidase versus pyocyanin. Immunol Res. 2009;43(1-3):198-209.
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Last Updated June 26, 2014
Last Reviewed June 26, 2014