Hongwei Yu, PhD

Phone: (304) 696-7356

Research Interests

My research focuses on two areas: lung infections in Cystic Fibrosis and the role of segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB) in the gut immunity.


The major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with Cystic Fibrosis is chronic lung infections with the bacterial pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. During the course of infection, this bacterium overproduces a capsular polysaccharide called alginate. The overproduction of alginate is a marker for chronic infections and responsible for the disease progression. The goal of our research is to prevent the development of chronic infections by controlling the molecular mechanisms that govern alginate regulation. Alginate is negatively regulated by the transmembrane protein MucA. There are two molecular mechanisms by which P. aeruginosa regulates the production of alginate. The first is through the activation of the intramembrane proteases, and the second is through mutations in mucA. Previously we found that induction of a small envelope protein can activate the alginate biosynthetic pathway in the strains with a wild type mucA (Refs. 2 and 10). Additionally, we determined that increasing the activities of a specific protease, alginate overproduction can also be stably induced in strains with only a cytoplasmic portion of MucA (Refs. 3 and 9). These strains provide model systems for a pathway-based screen for potential biofilm inhibitors. Our ultimate goal is to develop therapeutics that target biofilm formation for clinical trials.

Jordan G. Sheppard – Senior (Biology Major), Marshall University

T. Ryan Withers, PhD – Staff Scientist (Progenesis Technologies, LLC)

Hongwei D. Yu, PhD – PI

  1. Methods of detecting and controlling mucoid Pseudomonas biofilm production. Yu HD, Qiu D. US Patent 8,399,649, Issued in 2013.
  2. Methods for producing bacterial alginates. Yu HD, Damron FH, Qiu D. US Patent application No. 12/432,474, Priority date: April 29, 2008.
  3. Culture medium and methods for producing alginate from stable mucoid strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Yu HD, Niles RM, Wang X, Dillon KD. US Patent application No. 13/348,897, Priority date: Jan. 14, 2011.