Dr. Christine McDonald Lab

Christine McDonald, Ph.D.

Associate Staff, Department of Pathobiology
Assistant Professor of Molecular Medicine

The research in the McDonald Laboratory investigates the control of innate immune responses involved in host defense to bacterial pathogens. We are interested in how alterations in these responses contribute to the development of auto-inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease. A particular focus of the laboratory is on the mechanisms of activation and regulation of the bacterial sensor protein NOD2 in immune cells and epithelium.

  • October 2013
    Opening of the Clinic for Adult Auto-Inflammatory Diseases – a multi-disciplinary clinic that offers expert knowledge and management of auto-inflammatory diseases, supported by genetic testing and counseling, as well as groundbreaking research headed by Drs. Qingping Yao (Rheumatology), Christine McDonald (Lerner Research Institute), Felicitas Lacbawan (Molecular Pathology), and Rocio Moran (Genomic Medicine Institute).[...]
  • Recent publication in Gastroenterology is the topic of the issue’s editorial

Research Overview

In the intestine, the immune system needs to perform a careful balancing act to preserve a community of beneficial micro-organisms, while defending against potentially harmful pathogens. When this balance goes awry, it can lead to inflammatory bowel disease. The McDonald Lab is investigating how genetic and dietary factors influence antimicrobial defenses of the gut and how they contribute to the development and progression of the inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease. We are also defining how these defenses are controlled to determine whether they can be targeted therapeutically to correct disease-associated alterations in antimicrobial defense or be applied to control antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

    Current Lab Members:
  • Laura J. Dixon, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Craig Homer, M.S. – Lead Research Technologist
  • Amrita Kabi, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Min Shen, M.D. – Rheumatology Fellow
  • Erin E. Johnson, Ph.D. – Visiting Scientist (John Carroll University)
    Former Lab Members:
  • Kourtney P. Nickerson, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow, Mucosal Immunology & Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Chaorui Tian, M.D., Ph.D. – T32 Gastroenterology Fellow
  • Amy Richmond, B.S. – Research Technologist


  • STERIS/CWRU Infectious Diseases Research Support (McDonald)
    11/1/2013 – 10/31/2014
    Enhancement of cutaneous antimicrobial defenses to target MRSA infection
  • Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program Grant PR110887 (McDonald)
    9/21/2012 – 9/20/2015
    Enhancement of NOD2 function as a novel therapy for inflammatory bowel disease
  • NIDDK (NIH) 1 R01 DK082437 (McDonald)
    7/1/2009 – 4/3/2015
    Autophagy and Nod2 function in Crohn’s disease
  • NIDDK (NIH) 2 R01 DK050984 (Fiocchi)
    4/1/2010 – 3/31/2015
    Cell Interactions in the Inflamed Intestinal Mucosa

Other Support

Special thanks to the following individuals for their monetary support of our research program:

  • Gerald & Nancy Goldberg
  • Daryl & Katherine Ross

Recent publications

  • A genome-wide siRNA screen reveals NF-κB independent regulators of NOD2-induced IL-8 secretion. Warner N, Burberry A, Pliakas M, McDonald C, Núñez G. J Biol Chem. 2014 Aug 28. pii: jbc.M114.574756. [Epub ahead of print]
  • The dietary polysaccharide maltodextrin promotes Salmonella survival and mucosal colonization in mice. Nickerson KP, Homer CR, Kessler SP, Dixon LJ, Kabi A, Gordon IO, Johnson EE, de la Motte CA, McDonald C. PLoS One. 2014 Jul 7;9(7):e101789. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101789. eCollection 2014.

PubMed Publications