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George A. O'Toole, PhD

Professor of Microbiology and Immunology

Microbiology and Immunology

University of Wisconsin - Madison, Ph.D., 1994
Cornell University, B.S., 1988

After postdoctoral work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Harvard Medical School, Dr. O'Toole joined the faculty of the Department of Microbiology at Dartmouth Medical School in 1999

Immunology Program
Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Programs
Molecular Pathogenesis Program


Contact Information:

Dartmouth Medical School
Vail Building - HB 7550
Hanover NH 03755

Phone: 603-650-1248
Fax: 603-650-1318
Email: George.A.Otoole@Dartmouth.Edu

Professional Interests:

The main focus of the O’Toole laboratory is the study of complex surface-attached bacterial communities known as biofilms. Biofilms can form on a wide variety of surfaces including catheter lines, surgical implants, contact lenses, the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis, industrial and drinking water pipelines, and on the surfaces of plant roots. In most natural, clinical, and industrial settings bacteria live predominantly in biofilms and not as planktonic (free-swimming) cells such as those typically studied in the laboratory. Bacteria growing in biofilm communities are of great interest to the medical community, because these bacteria become highly resistant to antibiotics by an as yet unknown mechanism. Although much has been learned about the types of microbes that can form biofilms, the morphology of these communities, and their chemical/physical properties, until recently little was known about the molecular genetic basis of biofilm formation or antibiotic resistance.

Studies in the O’Toole lab focus on:
• The molecular genetic basis of biofilm formation.
• The role of the intracellular signaling molecule c-di-GMP in controlling biofilm formation by pseudomonads.
• The signal transduction pathways regulating biofilm formation.
• The mechanisms by which biofilms form on biotic, or living surfaces, and why these biofilms are so highly resistant to antibiotics. We have developed a novel model system for studying biofilms on airway epithelial cells, and these studies are done, in particular, in the context of cystic fibrosis.
• The role of lysogenic phages in impacting biofilm formation.

Recent collaborative studies with Dr. Bruce Stanton’s group here at Dartmouth have explored questions of host-pathogen interactions, using the interplay between the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa and airway epithelial cells as a model system. We are particularly interested in the role of the toxin, Cif, in altering epithelial cell biology and protein trafficking. We are also studying mechanisms by which P. aeruginosa delivers toxins to host cells.

Please visit the O'Toole Lab Home Page.

Selected Publications:


Altered Stool Microbiota of Infants with Cystic Fibrosis Shows a Reduction in Genera Associated with Immune Programming From Birth.
Antosca KM, Chernikova DA, Price CE, Ruoff KL, Li K, Guill MF, Sontag NA, Morrison HG, Hao S, Drumm ML, MacKenzie TA, Dorman DB, Feenan LM, Williams MA, Dessaint J, Yuan IH, Aldrich BJ, Moulton LA, Ting L, Martinez-Del Campo A, Stewart EJ, Karagas MR, O'Toole GA, Madan JC
J Bacteriol. 2019 Jun 17; pii: JB.00274-19. doi: 10.1128/JB.00274-19. Epub 2019 Jun 17.
PMID: 31209076

Bordetella bronchiseptica diguanylate cyclase BdcA regulates motility and is important for the establishment of respiratory infection in mice.
Belhart K, Gutierrez MP, Zacca F, Ambrosis N, Cartelle Gestal M, Taylor D, Dahlstrom KM, Harvill ET, O'Toole GA, Sisti F, Fernandez J
J Bacteriol. 2019 Jun 17; pii: JB.00011-19. doi: 10.1128/JB.00011-19. Epub 2019 Jun 17.
PMID: 31209073

Ethanol decreases Pseudomonas aeruginosa flagellar motility through the regulation of flagellar stators.
Lewis KA, Baker AE, Chen AI, Harty CE, Kuchma SL, O'Toole GA, Hogan DA
J Bacteriol. 2019 May 20; pii: JB.00285-19. doi: 10.1128/JB.00285-19. Epub 2019 May 20.
PMID: 31109994

Metabolic Modeling of Cystic Fibrosis Airway Communities Predicts Mechanisms of Pathogen Dominance.
Henson MA, Orazi G, Phalak P, O'Toole GA
mSystems. 2019 Mar-Apr;4(2) pii: e00026-19. doi: 10.1128/mSystems.00026-19. Epub 2019 Apr 23.
PMID: 31020043

Gross transcriptomic analysis of Pseudomonas putida for diagnosing environmental shifts.
Hueso-Gil Á, Calles B, O'Toole GA, de Lorenzo V
Microb Biotechnol. 2019 Apr 7; doi: 10.1111/1751-7915.13404. Epub 2019 Apr 7.
PMID: 30957409

The Yin and Yang of Streptococcus Lung Infections in Cystic Fibrosis: a Model for Studying Polymicrobial Interactions.
Scott JE, O'Toole GA
J Bacteriol. 2019 Jun 1;201(11) pii: e00115-19. doi: 10.1128/JB.00115-19. Epub 2019 May 8.
PMID: 30885933

Pseudomonas aeruginosa Can Inhibit Growth of Streptococcal Species via Siderophore Production.
Scott JE, Li K, Filkins LM, Zhu B, Kuchma SL, Schwartzman JD, O'Toole GA
J Bacteriol. 2019 Apr 15;201(8) pii: e00014-19. doi: 10.1128/JB.00014-19. Epub 2019 Mar 26.
PMID: 30718303

Flagellar stators stimulate c-di-GMP production by Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Baker AE, Webster SS, Diepold A, Kuchma SL, Bordeleau E, Armitage JP, O'Toole GA
J Bacteriol. 2019 Jan 14; pii: JB.00741-18. doi: 10.1128/JB.00741-18. Epub 2019 Jan 14.
PMID: 30642992

Co-opting the Lap System of Pseudomonas fluorescens To Reversibly Customize Bacterial Cell Surfaces.
Smith TJ, Sondermann H, O'Toole GA
ACS Synth Biol. 2018 Nov 16;7(11):2612-2617. doi: 10.1021/acssynbio.8b00278. Epub 2018 Oct 16.
PMID: 30278125

Ligand-Mediated Biofilm Formation via Enhanced Physical Interaction between a Diguanylate Cyclase and Its Receptor.
Giacalone D, Smith TJ, Collins AJ, Sondermann H, Koziol LJ, O'Toole GA
MBio. 2018 Jul 10;9(4) pii: e01254-18. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01254-18. Epub 2018 Jul 10.
PMID: 29991582

View more publications on PubMed