Medical Microbiology and Immunology

Jason F. Huntley, Ph.D.

HuntleyProfessor of Microbiology
Director of the UToledo COMLS BSL3/A-BSL3 Laboratory
Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Development
COMLS Council President (2021-2022)
Francisella tularensis pathogenesis; Harmful algal bloom toxin mitigation

Office: HEB 200D
Telephone: 419-383-5456
Fax:  419-383-3002
E-mail Address:

Media Releases:


Dr. Huntley’s laboratory studies the intracellular pathogen Francisella tularensis.  Projects in the lab are focused on identifying bacterial virulence factors, examining how the bacteria bind to and invade host cells, analyzing changes in expression profiles inside host cells, and surveying the host immune responses to infection.

Francisella tularensis, the etiological agent of tularemia, is a Gram-negative intracellular bacterium that causes rapid, fatal disease in a number of mammalian species, including humans.  F. tularensis is well-recognized as one of the most dangerous bacterial pathogens known because of its low infectious dose (< 10 organisms), ease of aerosolization, multiple routes of infection, and ability to induce severe disease and death.  For these reasons, F. tularensis has been has been designated as a Tier 1 select agent, indicating its potential use as a bioweapon.  One working hypothesis of the lab is that F. tularensis outer membrane proteins (OMPs), because of their surface localization, are likely involved in infection and disease.  The second working hypothesis is that F. tularensis OMPs, because of their surface localization, are ideal vaccine candidates. Research projects in the Huntley laboratory are focused on: (1) Identifying F. tularensis OMPs up-regulated during mammalian infection;  (2) Assessing OMP-deficient F. tularensis mutants during in vitro and in vivo infections to confirm the role of individual OMPs as virulence factors;  (3) Characterizing the function of individual OMPs;  (4) Developing and testing new vaccine formulations that prevent tularemia;  (5) Defining immune responses that protect against F. tularensis infection.  These projects are designed to answer fundamental questions about F. tularensis virulence and have practical applications for the development of safe, efficacious vaccines to prevent F. tularensis infection and disease.

The Huntley laboratory recently initiated a new research project to develop methods to inactivate and degrade the microcystin toxin (MC-LR) from Lake Erie water. Given the August 2014 City of Toledo water crisis and continued Lake Erie harmful algal blooms, safe and effective methods are needed to remove MC-LR from drinking water to avoid future “do not drink” orders. This project is based on preliminary data from other labs around the world indicating that naturally-occurring microcystin-degrading bacteria exist in fresh water lake and could be used to degrade MC-LR from drinking water. The aims of this proposal are to: (1) Isolate MC-LR-degrading bacteria from Lake Erie water samples and select the most efficient MC-LR-degrading bacterial strains;  (2)  Test conditions that promote MC-LR-degrading bacteria to form biofilms on filters currently used in municipal water treatment facilities;  (3) Optimize conditions that enhance MC-LR degradation and maintain healthy biofilms on filters;  (4) Perform mock water purification experiments and assess the capabilities of biofilters to quickly and effectively degrade MC-LR;  (5) Develop feasibility plans for biofilter enhancements and scale-up. 

Dr. Huntley received his M.S. in Veterinary Microbiology in 1999 from Iowa State University under the mentorship of Drs. Kenneth B. Platt (Iowa State University) and Steve R. Bolin (National Animal Disease Center, ARS, USDA).  Dr. Huntley received his Ph.D. in Veterinary Pathology in 2004 from Iowa State University under the mentorship of Drs. Mark R. Ackermann (Iowa State University) and Judith R. Stabel (National Animal Disease Center, ARS, USDA).  Dr. Huntley completed post-doctoral training at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas in 2010 in the laboratory of Michael V. Norgard.  Dr. Huntley joined the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Toledo in July 2010.

Current Grant Funding:

Using Microcystin Degrading Bacteria and their Enzymes for Water Treatment
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Ocean Service (NOS), Prevention, Control, and Mitigation of Harmful Algal Blooms  (PCMHAB) Program, NA20NOS4780182
September 2020 – August 2023
Purpose:  Develop and test biofilters that remove the microcystin toxin MC-LR from drinking water, use microcystin degrading bacteria to degrade MC-LR from water treatment waste products, identify microcystin degrading enzymes from these bacteria, and produce purified enzymes that degrade MC-LR.


Huntley Lab Publications:

A complete list of Huntley Lab publications can be found at NCBI My Bibilography


Huntley Lab Summer 2021 - Ice Cream at Jockos

Huntley Lab 2021

From left to right:  Alison Mortemore (lab manager; currently a first year medical school at Tulane University), Jason, Rebecca Asher (currently a M2 at UToledo COMLS), Kaitlin Conner (currently a M2 at UToledo COMLS), Finch Cook (currently a junior at UToledo), and Jyotshana Guatam (postdoctoral fellow studying cyanobacterial toxin mitigation)

Previous Huntley Lab Members:

 Brenden Tully, MSBS
Brenden Tully

- Graduated from the Huntley Lab in December 2020  (time to degree completion: 2.5 years)
- Currently in physician assistant training at Thiel College in Pennsylvania
- Featured in YouTube Video about graduate research training here at UToledo COMLS:

 Brenden’s publications from the Huntley Lab:
1.  Chavez ASO, Wang X, Marnin L, Archer NK, Hammond HL, Carroll, EEM, Shaw D, Tully B, Buskirk AD, Ford S, Butler LR, Shahi P, Morozova K, Clement CC, Lawres L, O’Neal A, Mamoun CB, Mason K, Hobbs, BE, Scoles GA, Barry EM, Sonenshine DE, Pal U, Valenzuela JG, Sztein MB, Pasetti MF, Levin ML, Kotsyfakis M, Jay SM, Huntley JF, Miller L, Santambrogio L, Pedra JHF.  2021.  Tick extracellular vesicles enable arthropod feeding and promote distinct outcomes of bacterial infectionNature Communications.  12(1):3696.  June 17.  DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-23900-8.  PMID: 34140472.

 2.  Zellner B, Mengin-Lecreulx D, Tully B, Gunning WT, Booth R, and Huntley JF.  2021.  Francisella tularensis L,D-carboxypeptidase plays important roles in cell morphology, envelope integrity, and virulence.  Molecular Microbiology.  Jan 20.  DOI: 10.1111/mmi.14685.  PMID: 33469978.

 3.  Tully BG and Huntley JF.  2020.  A Francisella tularensis Chitinase Contributes to Bacterial Persistence and Replication in Two Major U.S. Tick VectorsPathogens,  9(12), 1037.  PMID 33321814.

 4.  Tully BG and Huntley JF.  2020.  Mechanisms Affecting the Acquisition, Persistence and Transmission of Francisella tularensis in TicksMicroorganisms, 8(11), 1639.  PMID: 33114018.  PMCID: PMC7690693.

Briana Zellner, Ph.D.
Briana Zellner
- Graduated from the Huntley Lab in December 2019  (time to degree completion: 4.5 years)
- Currently a ORISE postdoctoral fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia
- Featured in Toledo Blade article about tick-borne tularemia:

 Briana’s publications from the Huntley Lab:
1.  Zellner B, Mengin-Lecreulx D, Tully B, Gunning WT, Booth R, and Huntley JF.  2021.  Francisella tularensis L,D-carboxypeptidase plays important roles in cell morphology, envelope integrity, and virulence.  Molecular Microbiology.  Jan 20.  DOI: 10.1111/mmi.14685.  PMID: 33469978.

 2.  Zellner B, Huntley JF.  2019.  Ticks and Tularemia: Do We Know What We Don’t Know?  Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology;  9:146.  Doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2019.00146.  PMID: 31139576.

Alison Brandel Thees, MSBS
Alison Brandel Thees
- Graduated from the Huntley Lab in May 2018 (time to degree completion: 3.5 years)
- Currently lives in Colorado

 Alison’s publication from the Huntley Lab:
1.  Thees A, Atari E, Birbeck J, Westrick JA, and Huntley JF.  Isolation and Characterization of Lake Erie Bacteria that Degrade the Cyanobacterial Microcystin Toxin MC-LRJ Great Lakes Res.  2019.  February 2019; 45(1):138-149.  doi: 10.1016/j.jglr.2018.10.013.  PMID: 32753778.

Xiaojun Wilma Wu, Ph.D.
Wilma Wu
- Graduated from the Huntley Lab in August 2016  (time to degree completion: 4 years)
- Currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neurosciences at UToledo COMLS

 Wilma’s publications from the Huntley Lab:
1.  Wu X, Ren G, Gunning WT, Weaver DA, Kalinoski AL, Khuder SA, and Huntley JF.  FmvB: A Francisella tularensis Magnesium-Responsive Outer Membrane Protein that Plays a Role in Virulence.  PLoS One.  2016.  Aug 11; 11(8):e0160977.  doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0160977.  PMID: 27513341.

2.  Wu X, Ren G, and Huntley JF.  Generating Isogenic Deletions (Knockouts) in Francisella tularensis, a Highly-infectious and Fastidious Gram-negative Bacterium.  Bio. Protoc.  2015.  June 20; 5(12):e1500.  PMID: 26137499


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Last Updated: 7/29/22