Dr. Alexander Horswill earned his PhD in 2001 from the Department of Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His thesis research focused on Salmonella typhimurium short-chain fatty acid metabolism in the laboratory of Dr. Jorge Escalante-Semerena. From 2001-2005, Dr. Horswill was a Damon-Runyon post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Stephen Benkovic in the Department of Chemistry at Penn State University. His research focused on protein engineering methods, more specifically on the use of inteins to cyclize peptides for identifying small-molecule modulators.
From 2005-2017, Dr. Horswill was a faculty member in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Iowa. In July 2017, the Horswill laboratory relocated to the Dept. of Immunology & Microbiology at the Univ. of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
The overall interest of the Horswill Lab is the study of social activities of bacteria and host - pathogen interactions. Our group focuses on the major bacterial human pathogens Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Staphylococcus epidermidis, and Acinetobacter baumannii. We are investigating how these pathogens can regulate group behavior through quorum-sensing and other sensory mechanisms, and how this coordinated action impacts both colonization and pathogenesis. These bacterial pathogens can also aggregate and build biofilms in the host in order to persist, and we are examining surface proteins and regulatory mechanisms that are instrumental in carrying out this group behavior. In parallel to these projects, we are investigating how commensal bacteria, such as Coagulase-negative Staphylococci (CoNS) and Corynebacterium sp., can impact S. aureus colonization and disease. Throughout our research, we use a variety of molecular, genetic, and biochemical approaches to investigate these mechanisms, as well as cell based methods and animal models. We have also collaborated with multiple chemistry groups to identify and characterize small-molecule inhibitors that can control pathogen gene regulation. We hope that our research will lead to a better understanding of these virulence mechanisms in order to develop new therapeutic approaches for disease prevention.