Charlette Berkes, Ph.D.
- Assistant Professor, Biology
- Health Professions Advisor
B.S. Pennsylvania State University
Ph.D. University of Washington
Office: Mendel 352
Principles of Biology I, Immunology, Genetics lab, Cell Biology, Senior Thesis and Independent Research
I am currently working on projects related to fungal pathogenesis and innate immunity in my lab:
1) Anti-fungal drug development. The pathogenic fungus Histoplasma capsulatum infects lung macrophages and, in immunocompromised individuals, may develop into histoplasmosis, a life-threatening disease. Few advances have been made in the treatment of histoplasmosis in recent decades, and there is a great need for development of novel therapies for diseases caused by Histoplasma and other pathogenic fungi. In collaboration with Jimmy Franco (Chemistry, Merrimack College) and David Toth (Computer Science, University of Mary Washington), I am using computational approaches to identify drugs. This work allows students to focus on the interface between Biology and Chemistry.
2) Characterizing Dictyostelium pattern recognition receptors. Work in recent years has uncovered evolutionarily conserved protein families that play an important role in the ability of immune cells to detect the presence of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. However, these proteins (generally referred to as “pattern recognition receptors” are not restricted to vertebrate organisms. The genome of the simple social amoeba Dictyostelium discoidium contains genes whose sequence suggests they may play a role in the ability of the amoeba to sense, eat, and/or destroy microbes. My research in the molecular mechanisms of microbial sensing offers students at Merrimack College the opportunity to immerse themselves in the fields of immunology, cell biology and genetics.
3) Image cytometry in research and the classroom. Sophisticated algorithms allow both visualization and rapid quantification of cells. I work with Nexcelom Bioscience (a partner of the Center for Biotechnology and Biomedical Science) to develop new ways to use this technology for research and in the classroom.
Berkes, C. A., Chan, L. L., Wilkinson, A.* and Paradis, B. (2012) Quantification of pathogenic fungi by Cellometer image based cytometry. Journal of Microbiological Methods 91(3):468-76.
Chan, L. L., Kury, A.*, Wilkinson, A.*, Berkes, C. A. and Pirani, A. (2012) Novel image cytometric method for detection of physiological changes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology 39(11):1615-23.
Berkes, C. A.*, Isaac, D. T.*, Hocking Murray, D. R. and Sil, A. The fungal pathogen Histoplasma capsulatum utilizes the virulence factor Cbp1 to elicit a unique host transcriptional response and trigger cell death in infected macrophages. In preparation *These authors contributed equally to this work.
Inglis, D. O,, Berkes, C. A, Hocking Murray, D. R. and Sil, A. 2010. Conidia but not yeast of the fungal pathogen Histoplasma capsulatum trigger a type I interferon innate immune response in murine macrophages. Infection and Immunity 78(9):3871-82.