Chia Lee, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology 

Research Interest:  Pathogenesis of Staphylococcus aureus 
Ph.D., Kansas State University
Postdoctoral:  Kansas State University
Phone: (501) 526-7687
Fax:  (501) 686-5359


Research Description

The long-term goal of this laboratory is to better understand the molecular mechanisms of staphylococcal pathogenesis. Staphylococci are a group of bacteria most commonly causing nosocomial infections, many of which are life-threatening. The pathgenicity of staphylococci depends on the ability of the bacteria to produce various virulence factors. These bacteria are also excellent in adapting to their environments. As a result, the emergence of antibiotic resistance strains in response to antibiotic usage has caused serious problems for controlling staphylococcal infections. Among all staphylococci, S. aureus is the most virulent species. This organism is capable of producing a plethora of virulence factors reflecting its ability to cause a wide range of human and animal diseases ranging from superficial skin infections to debilitating systemic infections. These virulence factors have been shown to be highly regulated by a complex regulatory network. In our laboratory, we have specifically focused our research efforts on understanding the regulation of virulence factors to delineate the mechanisms of pathogenesis. We have taken two different approaches for this goal. One approach is to use capsule as our model system to identify genes involved in capsule gene regulation. We have successfully identified several regulators and are currently characterizing these genes with respect to their regulatory functions and interactions. The other approach is to focus a recently identified global regulator, mgr , which controls many virulence factors. We are currently analyzing this locus in details and studying its interaction with other global regulators to unravel its role in the regulatory circuit controlling the expression of virulence genes. In addition, we have also initiated a study to understand how biofilm is controlled in staphylococci. The ability to form Biofilm has been shown to be crucial for staphylococci to cause device-related infections and other diseases such as osteomyelitis and endocarditis. We have recently characterized a regulator, rbf , involved in biofilm regulation in S. aureus . Detailed characterization of this locus is in progress in our laboratory.


M. G. Lei, D. Cue, J. Alba, J. Junecko, J. W. Graham and C. Y. Lee. 2012. A single copy integration vector that integrates at an engineered site on the Staphylococcus aureus chromosome. BMC Res Notes 5:5. PMCID: PMC3274448

D. Cue, M. G. Lei and C. Y. Lee. 2013. Activation of sarX by Rbf is required for biofilm formation and icaADBC expression in Staphylococcus aureus. J. Bacteriol. 195:1515-1524.

R. K. Gupta, J. Alba, Y. Q. Xiong, A. S. Bayer and C. Y. Lee. 2013. MgrA activates expression of capsule genes, but not the α-toxin gene in experimental Staphylococcus aureus endocarditis. J. Infect. Dis. 208:1841-1848.

J. W. Graham, M. G. Lei and C. Y. Lee 2013. Trapping and identification of cellular substrates of the Staphylococcus aureus ClpC chaperone. J. Bacteriol. 195:4506-4516.