Peter Ernst, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Steven Gonias, M.D., Ph.D.

  • Professor
  • Director of Comparative Pathology and Medicine
  • D.V.M., M.Sc. – University of Guelph
  • Ph.D. – McMaster University
  • Clinical Specialty: Basic and translational research related to the immunobiology of infections in the digestive tract.

Research Interests

Our general research interests are in the area of comparative (human to mouse) mucosal immunology with specific projects in immune-epithelial cell interactions involved in the microbial pathogenesis of acute and chronic diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. One area examines the role of adenosine in the development of gastrointestinal Th cells that control inflammatory responses to infections including Helicobacter pylori and enteric Helicobacter spp. These infections are relevant to gastroduodenal disease and inflammatory bowel diseases. We have extended these studies to examine the role of adenosine in the control of disease associated with food- or waterborne pathogens as well as the role of the microbiota on acquired regulatory T cell development. The second area of investigation examines the fate of apoptotic cells. A major part of this project is characterizing the signaling events subsequent to the attachment of an apoptotic cell and to study the impact on host responses when an infected, dead target cell is engulfed. These studies have identified a novel pattern recognition receptor for the engulfment of Gram negative bacteria that is also being characterized.

Representative Publications

  1. Naganuma, M., Wiznerowicz, E.B., Lappas, C.M., Linden, J., Worthington, M.T. and Ernst P.B. Cutting Edge: Critical role for adenosine A2A receptors in the T cell mediated regulation of colitis. J. Immunol. 177:2765-2769, 2006.
  2. Alam, M.S., Kurtz, C.C., Rowlett, R.M., Reuter, B.K., Wiznerowicz, E.B., Das, S., Linden, J., Crowe, S.E., Ernst, P.B. CD73 is expressed by human regulatory Th cells and suppresses pro-inflammatory cytokine production and Helicobacter felis-induced gastritis in mice. J. Infect. Dis. 199:494-504, 2009.
  3. Bhattacharyya, A., Chattopadhyay, R., Cross, J.V., Ernst, P.B., Mitra, S., Bhakat, K.K., Crowe, S.E. Acteylation of apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease-1 regulates Helicobacter pylori-mediated gastric epithelial cell apoptosis. Gastroenterology, 136:2258-2269, 2009. PMCID: PMC2694750.
  4. Alam, M.S., Kurtz, C.C., Wilson, J.M., Wiznerowicz, E.B., Ross, W.G., Rieger, J.M., Figler, R.A., Linden, J., Crowe, S.E., Ernst, P.B. A2A adenosine receptor (AR) activation inhibits pro-inflammatory cytokine production by human CD4+ helper T cells and regulates Helicobacter induced gastritis and bacterial persistence. Mucosal Immunol. 2:232-242, 2009.
  5. Wilson, J.M., Ross, W.G., Agbai, O.N., Frazier, R., Figler, R.A., Rieger, J., Linden, J. and Ernst, P.B. The A2B Adenosine receptor impairs the maturation and immunogenicity of dendritic cells. J. Immunol. 2009, 182:4616-4623.
  6. Ernst, P.B., Garrison, J.C., Thompson, L.F. Much ado about adenosine: Adenosine synthesis and function in regulatory T cell biology. J. Immunol. 2010. 185:1993-1998.
  7. Wilson, J.M., Kurtz, C.C., Black, S.G., Ross, W.G., Alam, M.S., Linden, J. and Ernst, P.B. The A2B adenosine receptor promotes Th17 differentiation via stimulation of dendritic cell IL-6. J. Immunol. 186:6746-6752, 2011.
  8. Das S, Owen K.A, Ly K, Park D, Black S. G., Wilson J. M., Sifri C. D., Ravichandran K.S., Ernst P.B.  and Casanova J.E.  BAI1 (Brain Angiogenesis Inhibitor 1) is a novel pattern recognition receptor that mediates binding and engulfment of Gram-negative bacteria, In press. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 2011. 108: 2136-2141.)
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Dr. Ernst graduated with a D.V.M. and MSc degree from the University of Guelph in 1981. After a year in mixed practice, he completed his PhD in mucosal immunology at McMaster University and joined the faculty in the Department of Pathology in 1985. In 1992, he was appointed to the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch In Galveston Tx, and in 2001, he joined the Division of Gastroenterology in the Department of Medicine at the University of Virginia. Since 2011, he has been the Head of the Division of Comparative Pathology and Medicine in the Department of Pathology at UCSD. He is also appointed to the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at the Veterinary College at UC Davis and the Co-Director of the UC Veterinary Medical Center in San Diego. Dr. Ernst has a broad experience in mucosal immunology and has served as councilor and then Secretary-Treasurer for the Society for Mucosal Immunology. He has participated in many meetings for educating and mentoring young investigators including the Microbes and Mucosal Immunology Course.

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