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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:


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 <i>Streptococcus</i> Lung Infections in Cystic Fibrosis: A Model for Studying Polymicrobial Interactions.
Scott JE, O'Toole GA
J Bacteriol. 2019 Mar 18; pii: JB.00115-19. doi: 10.1128/JB.00115-19. Epub 2019 Mar 18.
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 <i>Pseudomonas aeruginosa</i>.
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

Special Sections for the 6th ASM Conference on Cell-Cell Communication in Bacteria.
O'Toole GA
J Bacteriol. 2018 Jul 15;200(14) pii: e00271-18. doi: 10.1128/JB.00271-18. Epub 2018 Jun 25.
PMID: 29941545

Type 1 Does the Two-Step: Type 1 Secretion Substrates with a Functional Periplasmic Intermediate.
Smith TJ, Sondermann H, O'Toole GA
J Bacteriol. 2018 Sep 15;200(18) pii: e00168-18. doi: 10.1128/JB.00168-18. Epub 2018 Aug 24.
PMID: 29866808

Multigenerational memory and adaptive adhesion in early bacterial biofilm communities.
Lee CK, de Anda J, Baker AE, Bennett RR, Luo Y, Lee EY, Keefe JA, Helali JS, Ma J, Zhao K, Golestanian R, O'Toole GA, Wong GCL
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Apr 24;115(17):4471-4476. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1720071115. Epub 2018 Mar 20.
PMID: 29559526

An N-Terminal Retention Module Anchors the Giant Adhesin LapA of Pseudomonas fluorescens at the Cell Surface: a Novel Subfamily of Type I Secretion Systems.
Smith TJ, Font ME, Kelly CM, Sondermann H, O'Toole GA
J Bacteriol. 2018 Apr 15;200(8) pii: e00734-17. doi: 10.1128/JB.00734-17. Epub 2018 Mar 26.
PMID: 29437852

View more publications on PubMed