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The Brody School of Medicine
Department of Microbiology and Immunology


C. Jeffrey Smith
SmithProfessor and Chairman
B.A., Lycoming College
M.S., Long Island University, C.W. Post Center
Ph.D., University of Illinois, Urbana

Telephone: (252) 744-2700 (Brody Office)
Telephone: (252) 744-3127 (Biotech Office)
Fax: (252) 744-3104


The spread of antibiotic resistance among bacterial pathogens poses a significant problem to the successful treatment of infectious diseases worldwide.  Resistance to all classes of antibiotics is known to occur and antibiotic resistant variants of all major bacterial pathogens have been described.  One of our research projects centers on the genetic characterization of antibiotic resistance genes and the mechanisms that control their dissemination among our indigenous microflora.  Through the use of molecular genetic techniques the regulation and structure of antibiotic resistance genes are analyzed in order to understand the evolutionary origins and widespread dissemination of these genes among bacterial species.  Further studies focus on the genetic elements responsible for the transmission of these resistance genes and on the novel molecular mechanisms of the gene transfer process. 


            The human microbiome or indigenous microflora outnumbers the human host cells by more than 10 to 1.  This normal microflora has a commensal association with the host which influences many of the host’s physiological, nutritional, and immunological activities.  The commensal relationship is maintained by physical barriers and immunological processes that keep the microbial populations in check.  However, disruption of these defense mechanisms leads to opportunistic infections which can have a serious impact on human health. So just how does our indigenous microflora cause disease?  In order to address this question my laboratory studies intra-abdominal abscesses which are formed in response to contamination of the peritoneal cavity with indigenous intestinal bacteria following perforation of the bowel (appendicitis, diverticulitis, carcinoma, surgery).  These are polymicrobic infections that result in a multifactorial host response designed to wall off and contain the invading microbes.  Bacteroides fragilis is the predominant anaerobe associated with intra-abdominal infections and we hypothesized that resistance to oxidative stress is an important factor in the development of these infections.  This is because relative to the colon, the peritoneal cavity is an oxygenated environment, and the recruitment of PMNs to the site of infection will result in exposure of B. fragilis to reactive oxygen species. Our work has documented that B. fragilis induces an acute oxidative stress response which is designed to minimize the immediate effects of oxygen radicals and that this rapid response, mediated by the regulator OxyR, is necessary for abscess formation in mice.  We also have shown that following the acute phase there is a novel, widespread induction of genes associated with metabolism which occurs when there is prolonged exposure to oxidative stress.  Our long range goals for this work are to understand the genetic mechanisms that regulate this global response to oxidative stress and determine how these anaerobic bacteria evade host defense mechanisms in the peritoneal cavity.  We ultimately wish to learn how these virulence factors enhance persistence in the abscess milieu of necrotic cell debris, viable PMNs, and host serum factors.



Ferreira, E., J. Carvalho, R. Peixoto, R. Zingali, L. Lobo, C. Smith, E. Rocha, and RM Domingues.  2009. The interaction of Bacteroides fragilis with components of the human fibrinolytic system. : FEMS Immunol. Med. Microbiol.  56:48-55.

Reott, M.A., A.C. Parker, E.R. Rocha, and C.J. Smith.  2009. Thioredoxins in redox maintenance and survival during oxidative stress of Bacteroides fragilis.  J. Bacteriol. 191:3384-3391.

Roberts, A.P., M. Chandler, P. Courvalin, G. Guédon, P. Mullany, T. Pembroke, J. I. Rood, C. J. Smith, A. O. Summers, M. Tsuda, and D. E. Berg. 2008. Revised nomenclature for transposable genetic elements. Plasmid 60:167-173.

Sund, C.J., E.R. Rocha, A.O. Tzianabos, W.G. Wells, J.M. Gee, M.A. Reott, D.P. O’Rourke and C.J. Smith. 2008. The Bacteroides fragilis Transcriptome Response To Oxygen and H2O2: The Role Of OxyR And Its Effect On Survival And Virulence. Mol. Microbiol. 67:129-142.

Bacic, M., J.C. Jain, A.C. Parker, and C.J. Smith 2007. Analysis of the Zinc Finger Domain of TnpA, a DNA Targeting Protein Encoded by Mobilizable Transposon Tn4555. Plasmid 58:23-30.

Rocha, E.R., A.O. Tzianabos, and C.J. Smith. 2007. Thioredoxin reductase is essential for the thiol/disulfide redox control and oxidative stress survival in the anaerobe Bacteroides fragilis. J. Bacteriol. 189:8015-8023.

Sund, C.J., W.G. Wells, and C.J. Smith. 2006. The Bacteroides fragilis P20 scavengase homolog is important in the oxidative stress response but is not controlled by OxyR. FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 261:211-217.

Spence, C., W.G. Wells, and C.J. Smith. 2006. Characterization of the primary starch utilization operon in the obligate anaerobe Bacteroides fragilis: regulation by carbon source and oxygen. J. Bacteriol. 188:4663-4672.

Robertson, K.P., C. J. Smith, A.M. Gough, and E.R. Rocha. 2006. Characterization of Bacteroides fragilis Hemolysins and Regulation and Synergistic Interactions of HlyA and HlyB. Infect. Immun. 74:2304-2316.

Bacic, M., and C.J. Smith. 2005. Analysis of chromosomal insertion sites for Bacteroides Tn4555 and the role of TnpA. Gene 353:80-88.

Bacic, M., A.C. Parker, J. Stagg, H.P. Whitley, W.G. Wells, L.A. Jacob and C.J. Smith. 2005. Genetic and Structural Analysis of the Bacteroides Conjugative Transposon CTn341. J. Bacteriol. 187:2858-2869.

Dinez, C.G., L.M. Farias, M.A.R. Carvalho, E.R. Rocha, and C.J. Smith. 2004. Differential gene expression in a Bacteroides fragilis metronidazole resistant mutant. J. Antimicrob. Chemother. 54:100-108.

Rocha, E.R. and C.J. Smith 2004. Transcriptional regulation of the Bacteroides fragilis ferritin gene (ftnA) by redox stress. Microbiology 150:2125-2134.

Parker, A.C. and C.J. Smith. 2004. A Multicomponent System Is Required for Tetracycline-Induced Excision of Tn4555. J. Bacteriol. 186:438-444.

Rocha, E.R., C.D. Herren, D. J. Smalley, and C.J. Smith. 2003. The Complex Oxidative Stress Response of Bacteroides fragilis:the role of OxyR in Control of Gene Expression. Anaerobe 9:165-173.

Herren, C., E.R. Rocha, and C.J. Smith. 2003. Regulation of an Important Oxidative Stress Locus in the Anaerobic Pathogen Bacteroides fragilis. Gene 316:167-175.

Smalley, D., E.R. Rocha, and C.J. Smith. 2002. An Aerobic-Type Ribonucleotide Reductase in the Anaerobe Bacteroides fragilis. J. Bacteriol. 184:895-903.

Smith, C.J., A.C. Parker, and M. Bacic. 2001. Analysis of a Bacteroides Conjugative Transposon Using a Novel "Targeted Capture" Model System. Plasmid 46:47-56.

Bayley, D.P., E.R. Rocha, and C.J. Smith. 2000. Analysis of cepA and other Bacteroides fragilis genes reveals a unique promoter structure. FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 193:149-154.

Rocha, E. R., and C. J. Smith. 2000. The redox-sensitive transcriptional activator OxyR regulates the peroxide response regulon in the obligate anaerobe Bacteroides fragilis. J. Bacteriol. 182:5059-5069.

Tribble, G.D., A.C. Parker, and C.J. Smith. 1999. Identification of the genes required for transposition of the Bacteroides fragilis mobilizable transposon Tn4555:role of a novel targeting gene. Mol. Microbiol. 34:385-394.


BETTEKEN, Michael Doctoral Candidate Biotech 127 744-3126 email
CAO, Yanlu Doctoral Candidate Biotech 127 744-3126 email
NDAMUKONG, Ivan Post Doctoral Scholar Biotech 129/124 744-3365/2752 email
PARKER, Anita Research Specialist Biotech 127 744-3126 email
ROEBUCK, Teresa Lab Supervisor Brody 5N-67 744-2989 email
PALETHORPE, Samantha Research Tech Scholar (UWE) Biotech 127 744-3126 email