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Justin Thornton

Office: 121 Harned Hall
Phone: 662-325-8020


B.S. Biological Sciences, University of Southern Mississippi

Ph.D., Microbiology, University of Mississippi Medical Center

Postdoctoral Research

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Statement of Research Interests

Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) is the leading cause of acute otitis media and community acquired pneumonia worldwide.  However, far more commonly it is carried asymptomatically in the nasopharynx of healthy humans.  Understanding the molecular mechanisms that allow this bacterium to switch from harmless commensal to invasive pathogen is essential to the development of new prevention and treatment strategies.  My laboratory focuses on both sides of the host-pathogen interaction by characterizing how the innate immune response functions to prevent these types of infections and also how virulence mechanisms of S. pneumoniae enable it to cause disease.  The overall goal of our research is to identify new targets for intervention which will help to decrease the morbidity and mortality associated with this pathogen.

Recent Publications

Moon B.Y., Park J.Y., Park Y.H., Thornton J.A., Seo K.S. Genetic Engineering of a Temperature Phage-based Delivery System for Efficacious CRISPR/Cas9 Antimicrobials Against Staphylococcus aureus. Sci. Rep. Mar 21; 7:44929

Krishnavajhala A., Wilder H.K., Boyle W.K., Damania A., Thornton J.A., Perez de Leon A.A., Teel P.D., Lopez J.E. Imaging Borrelia turicatae Producing Green Fluorescent Protein Reveals Colonization of Ornithodorus duricata midgut and Salivary Glands from Nymphal Acquisition through Transmission. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2016 Dec 16. pii: AEM.02503-16.

Bryant J.R., Dabbs R.C., Oswalt K.L., Brown L.R., Rosch J.W., Seo K.S., Donaldson J.R., McDaniel L.S., Thornton J.A. Pyruvate Oxidase of Streptococcus pneumoniae Contributes to Pneumolysin Release. BMC Microbiol. 2016 Nov 9;16(1):271.

Rai A.N., Thornton J.A., Stokes J., Sunesara I., Swiatlo E., Nanduri B. Polyamine Transporter in Streptococcus pneumoniae is Essential for Evading Early Innate Immune Responses in Pneumococcal Pneumonia.

Moon B.Y., Park J.Y., Robinson D.A., Thomas J.C., Park Y.H., Thornton J.A., Seo K.S. Mobilization of Genomic Islands of Staphylococcus aureus by Temperate Bacteriophage. PLoS One. 2016. Mar 8;11(3):e0151409.

Brown L.R., Gunnell S.M., Cassella A.N., Keller L.E., Scherkenbach L.A., Mann B., Brown M.W., Hill R., Fitzkee N.C., Rosch J.W., Tuomanen E.I., Thornton J.A.. AdcAII of Streptococcus pneumoniae Affects Pneumococcal Invasiveness. PLoS One. 2016. Jan 11;11(1):e0146785.
Keller L.E, Lao X., Thornton J.A., Seo K.S., Robinson D.A., and McDaniel L.S. Immunization with Pneumococcal Surface Protein K of Nonencapsulated Streptococcus pneumoniae Provides Protection in a Mouse Model of Colonization. Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2015. Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2015 Nov;22(11):1146-53.
Thornton J.A., Tullos N.A., Sanders M.E., Ridout G., Wang Y., Taylor S.D., McDaniel L.S., and Marquart M.E.. Differential Bacterial Gene Expression During Experimental Pneumococcal Endophthalmitis. Ophthalmic Research. 2015. 53(3):149-61. Epub Mar 12.
Mann B., Thornton J.A., Heath R., Wade K.R., Tweten R.K., Gao G.,El Kasmi K., Jordan J.B., Mitrea D.M., Kriwacki, R., Maisonneuve J., Alderson M., Tuomanen E.I. Broadly Protective Protein-Based Pneumococcal Vaccine Composed of Pneumolysin Toxoid-CpbA Peptide Recombinant Fusion Protein. J. Infect. Dis. 2014 Apr 1;209(7):1116-25.