Michael Otto, Ph.D.

Michael Otto, Ph.D.

Credit: NIAID
Chief, Pathogen Molecular Genetics Section

Major Areas of Research

  • Staphylococcal infection and colonization
  • Bacterial interactions with the host and the host microbiota
  • Antibiotic resistance in Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Biofilm development and infection

Program Description

Our research focuses on Gram-positive bacteria (staphylococci, enterococci, Cutibacterium acnes, etc.) and their interaction with humans and with other bacteria within the human microbiota. Most work is performed on staphylococci, bacteria that colonize epithelial surfaces of humans and other mammals. Most have a benign, or as more recently discovered, even beneficial, relationship with the host. However, some of them can cause serious infections after breaching through the epithelia of the skin or other organs.

The most dangerous pathogen of the genus is Staphylococcus aureus, which is a leading cause of hospital- and community-associated infections, such as infections of the lung, skin, bones, or blood. Many of them can be fatal. We are interested in mechanisms of staphylococcal pathogenesis with a current focus on peptide toxins (phenol-soluble modulins, PSMs) and quorum-sensing.

Staphylococci frequently cause device-associated infections, which characteristically involve biofilms and can develop into dangerous blood infections in patients undergoing surgery or those with underlying conditions. We have performed intensive research on staphylococcal biofilm formation, including on contributing factors such as exopolysaccharides, on biofilm regulation, and on dispersal factors. Our focus is on in-vivo relevance of biofilm formation mechanisms.

Antibiotic resistance (such as in methicillin-resistant S. aureus, MRSA) is a major problem associated with staphylococcal infections. Our laboratory investigates mechanisms of virulence in MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant staphylococci with the goal of developing anti-virulence treatment options.

We are also performing research on the interaction of Staphylococcus bacteria with the host and with other microorganisms within the microbiota of the human intestine and skin. Part of this research includes the evaluation of probiotic interactions and their translational use.

Scanning electron microscopy of Staphylococcus epidermidis cluster embedded in exopolysaccharide matrix. Credit: NIAID

Scanning electron microscopy of Staphylococcus epidermidis cluster embedded in exopolysaccharide matrix.

Credit
NIAID

Scanning electron microscopy of Staphylococcus epidermidis cluster embedded in exopolysaccharide matrix.

Credit: NIAID

 

Biography

Dr. Otto received his M.S. in biochemistry in 1993 from the University of Tübingen, Germany. In 1998, he earned his Ph.D. in microbiology from the same institution. Dr. Otto joined the Laboratory of Human Bacterial Pathogenesis in July 2001 as a principal investigator. In 2008, he became a tenured senior investigator and moved his laboratory to the NIH Bethesda main campus.

Dr. Otto serves on several editorial advisory boards and is a section editor (Gram-positive bacteria) at PLoS Pathogens.

Research Group

Yiu Chong Cheung, Ph.D.
Credit
NIAID
Credit: NIAID

Dr. Yiu Chong “Gordon” Cheung, Ph.D. (University of Glasgow, Scotland)
Staff Scientist

Gordon is interested in the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenic success of S. aureus and coagulase-negative staphylococci. Additionally, he has a strong interest in investigating the host immune responses that occur during acute skin and severe sepsis infections and what bacterial virulence factors drive these processes. cheunggo@niaid.nih.gov

Baruch B. Hertzog, Ph.D.
Credit
NIAID
Credit: NIAID

Baruch B. Hertzog, Ph.D. (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel)
Visiting Fellow

Baruch is interested in bacterial communication and the antimicrobial activity of bacteria in the context of the skin microbiome. He is also developing molecular tools for skin microbial research.
baruch.hertzog@nih.gov

Amer E. Villaruz, Ph.D.
Credit
NIAID
Credit: NIAID

Amer E. Villaruz, Ph.D.
Microbiologist

Amer provides research support for various projects in the laboratory and specializes in molecular biology. He also performs protein chemistry and applications involving RNA.
avillaruz@niaid.nih.gov

Ryan Liu, B.S.
Credit
NIAID
Credit: NIAID

Ryan Liu, B.S.
Microbiologist

Ryan provides general support and animal model support.
ryan.liu@nih.gov

A photo of Michael Otto Research Group

Back row (left to right): Ryan Liu, Dylan Burgin (postbac IRTA), Roger Hsieh (postbac IRTA), Amer Villaruz

Middle row (left to right): Gordon Cheung, Michael Otto, Baruch Hertzog, Pipat Piewngam (special volunteer), Kittiya Khongkool (special volunteer)

Front row (left to right): Joie Ling (postbac IRTA), Adithap Hansakon (special volunteer)

Not in the picture: Lauren Heinzinger (postbac IRTA), Seth Dickey (special volunteer)

Credit
NIAID

Back row (left to right): Ryan Liu, Dylan Burgin (postbac IRTA), Roger Hsieh (postbac IRTA), Amer Villaruz

Middle row (left to right): Gordon Cheung, Michael Otto, Baruch Hertzog, Pipat Piewngam (special volunteer), Kittiya Khongkool (special volunteer)

Front row (left to right): Joie Ling (postbac IRTA), Adithap Hansakon (special volunteer)

Not in the picture: Lauren Heinzinger (postbac IRTA), Seth Dickey (special volunteer)

Credit: NIAID

Former postdoctoral laboratory members and current affiliations:

Nana Amissah, Ph.D. (University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana)
Som Chatterjee, Ph.D. (University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD)
Seth W. Dickey, Ph.D. (University of Maryland, College Park, MD)
Lei He, Ph.D. (Renji Hospital, Jiaotong University, Shanghai)
Hwang-Soo Joo, Ph.D. (Duksung Womens’ University, Seoul, South Korea)
Stanislava Kocianova, Ph.D. (Wuppertal, Germany)
Katherine Le, M.D. (Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN)
Min Li, Ph.D. (Renji Hospital, Jiaotong University, Shanghai, China)
Saravanan Periasamy, Ph.D. (Rajalakshmi Engineering College, Chennai, India)
Li Qin, M.D. (Wuhan No.1 Hospital, Wuhan, China)
Pipat Piewngam, Ph.D. (Summit Therapeutics, Menlo Park, CA)
Shu Yeong “Johnny” Queck, Ph.D. (Biomerieux Ltd., Singapore)
Kevin R. Rigby, Ph.D., (miRagen Therapeutics, Boulder, CO)
Viveka Vadyvaloo, Ph.D. (Idaho State University, Moscow, ID)
Cuong Vuong, Ph.D. (Aicuris, Wuppertal, Germany)
Rong Wang, Ph.D. (USDA, Clay Center, NE)
Yufeng Yao, Ph.D. (Jiaotong University, Shanghai)
Yue Zheng. Ph.D. (Innovent Biologics, Rockville, MD)

Pre-doc IRTAs, GPP students, and Ph.D. student-level special volunteers
Charlene Coulon, Ph.D. (Universite du Littoral, Boulogne-sur-mer, France)
Kok-Fai Kong, Ph.D. (La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, La Jolla, CA)
Yuping Lai, Ph.D. (East China Normal University, Shanghai)
Yan Chen, M.D. (Zhejian University, Hangzhou, China)
Fei Da, Ph.D. (Air Force Medical University, Xian, China)
Sana Dastgheyb, M.D. Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA)

Post-baccalaureate IRTAs
June Chan, Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD)
Hao “Tony” Pang, M.D. (Harbor–UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA)
Burhan A. Khan (Translational Research Institute, Woolloongabba, Australia)
Max Jameson-Lee, Ph.D. (Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA)
David J. Cha, M.D. (Stanford, CA)
Thanh-Huy Bach, Pharm.D. (Seattle, WA)
Kwame Tuffour, M.D. (Howard University, Washington, DC)
Thomas Dieringer, M.D. (University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA)
Anthony Duong, M.D. (Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, Queens Village, NY)
Trung Ho (USUHS, Bethesda, MD)
Anthony Yeh (William Carey University, Hattiesburg, MS)
Chih-Lung Fu (Qiagen, Gaithersburg, MD)
David Maguire (United States Pharmacopeia, Rockville, MD)
Joshua McCausland (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD)
Kyle Glose (Quinnipiac, New Haven, CT)
Emilie Fisher (Vanderbilt University, TN)
Rachelle Hunt (Yale University, New Haven, CT)
Barry Li (Rutgers University, Newark, NJ)
Saba Firdous (LCIM, NIAID, Bethesda, MD)

Microbiologists
Aaron Carmody (RTB, NIAID, Hamilton, MT)
Vee Tan (LCIM, NIAID, Bethesda, MD)

 

Selected Publications

Zheng Y, Hunt RL, Villaruz AE, Fisher EL, Liu R, Liu Q, Cheung GYC, Li M, Otto M. Commensal Staphylococcus epidermidis contributes to skin barrier homeostasis by generating protective ceramides. Cell Host Microbe. 2022 Mar 9;30(3):301-313.e9.

Nguyen TH, Cheung GYC, Rigby KM, Kamenyeva O, Kabat J, Sturdevant DE, Villaruz AE, Liu R, Piewngam P, Porter AR, Firdous S, Chiou J, Park MD, Hunt RL, Almufarriji FMF, Tan VY, Asiamah TK, McCausland JW, Fisher EL, Yeh AJ, Bae JS, Kobayashi SD, Wang JM, Barber DL, DeLeo FR, Otto M. Rapid pathogen-specific recruitment of immune effector cells in the skin by secreted toxins. Nat Microbiol. 2022 Jan;7(1):62-72.

Piewngam P, Chiou J, Ling J, Liu R, Pupa P, Zheng Y, Otto M. Enterococcal bacteremia in mice is prevented by oral administration of probiotic Bacillus spores. Sci Transl Med. 2021 Nov 24;13(621):eabf4692.

He L, Le KY, Khan BA, Nguyen TH, Hunt RL, Bae JS, Kabat J, Zheng Y, Cheung GYC, Li M, Otto M. Resistance to leukocytes ties benefits of quorum sensing dysfunctionality to biofilm infection. Nat Microbiol. 2019 Jul;4(7):1114-1119.

Piewngam P, Zheng Y, Nguyen TH, Dickey SW, Joo HS, Villaruz AE, Glose KA, Fisher EL, Hunt RL, Li B, Chiou J, Pharkjaksu S, Khongthong S, Cheung GYC, Kiratisin P, Otto M. Pathogen elimination by probiotic Bacillus via signalling interference. Nature. 2018 Oct;562(7728):532-537.

Chatterjee SS, Joo HS, Duong AC, Dieringer TD, Tan VY, Song Y, Fischer ER, Cheung GY, Li M, Otto M. Essential Staphylococcus aureus toxin export system. Nat Med. 2013 Mar;19(3):364-7.

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