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Path-Immuno - James Versalovic Lab

Houston, Texas

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Path-Immuno - James Versalovic Lab
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Karina Pokusaeva, Ph.D.

Kairan Pokusaeva, Ph.D.Postdoctoral Associate

Tel: 832-824-8239
Fax: 832-825-1165
Joined lab: August 2010

Mailing Address:
Texas Childrens Hospital
1102 Bates Ave. Suite 830
Feigin Center
Houston, TX 77030

Research Interests

The gastrointestinal tract is inhabited by a complex community of microorganisms, also referred to as the microbiota, which are believed to play an important role in human health and disease. Human microbiota studies have unveiled substantial differences in the gut microbiota composition of individuals and such differences have been linked to variations of human physiology or predisposition to disease. This concept has been driving extensive attempts to positively influence the composition and/or activity of the intestinal microbiota through the use of so-called probiotics and/or prebiotics. Current knowledge of genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics of probiotic bacteria, including the most common lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, enables the identification and characterization of specific effector molecules that mediate host health effects.

Dr. Karina Pokusaeva is a postdoctoral associate with over 7 years research experience in the field of pro- and prebiotics. She is interested in how complex gastrointestinal communities of microorganisms interact with the human host. Her current work investigates how particular gut commensals affect the enteric nervous system via secretion of small molecules.

Karina completed her Ph.D. in Dr. Douwe van Sinderens lab, in Bacterial Genomics and Metagenomics research group, at University College Cork and Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre in Ireland. During her dissertation, she investigated carbohydrate metabolism in the potential probiotic strain Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003. She identified and characterized three different carbohydrate utilization systems in this bacterium. The results of Karinas research provide a better understanding of how natural inhabitants of the human gut have adapted to this particular environment through their ability to utilize available carbon sources. This knowledge also helped to identify new potential prebiotics and enzymes that could be used for synthesis of novel prebiotics. Karina was successful in publishing her scientific achievements in peer-reviewed journals

Following her Ph.D., Karina moved to the United States to work in Dr. Sturinos lab on the Phenotype Microarray analysis of Escherichia coli and Streptococcus pyogenes. Karina obtained her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Science at Vilnius University in Lithuania.

While Karina worked on her Ph.D. she enjoyed visiting primary and post-primary schools in Cork with the purpose of promoting science. She recently became Vice President of ISAPP Students and Fellows Association. In her spare time, Karina likes cooking, dancing, travelling and spending time with her family.


  • Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Pathology, Lab of James Versalovic, M.D., Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine, August 2010 – Present.
  • Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Nutrition and Food Science, Lab of Joseph Sturino, Ph.D., Texas A&M University, May, 2009-August, 2010
  • Ph.D., Department of Microbiology, Lab of Douwe Van Sinderen, Ph.D., University College Cork and Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, February 2005 – April 2009
  • MSc. In Microbiology, Department of Microbiology, Lab of Donaldas Chitavichius, M.D., Ph.D., Vilnius University, September 2002-July 2004
  • BSc in Biology, Vilnius University, September 1998- July 2002


  • Pokusaeva K. & J. Versalovic. Immunomodulatory Effects of the Intestinal Microbiota and Compounds Derived from Beneficial Microbes. Functional Foods Reviews (Accepted in December 2010.
  • Pokusaeva K., OConnel-Motherway, M., Zomer, A., MacSherry, J., Fitzgerald, G. F. & D. Van Sinderen. Cellodextrin Utilization by Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003. Appl Environ Microbiol (Accepted in December 2010).
  • Pokusaeva K. & D. Van Sinderen. Carbohydrate metabolism in Bifidobacteria. Genes & Nutrition. (Accepted in December 2010)
  • Wang, X., Kim, Y., Pokusaeva, K., Sturino, J.M. & T. K. Wood, Cryptic Prophage Help Bacteria Cope with Adverse Environments. Nature Communications (Accepted in October 2010).
  • Sturino, J.; Zorych, I.; Mallick, B.; Pokusaeva, K.; Chang, Y.Y.; Carroll, R.J.; & Bliznuyk, N. Statistical Methods for Comparative Phenomics Using High-Throughput Phenotype Microarrays. Int J Biostat. 2010;6(1).
  • Pokusaeva, K.; Neves, A.R.; Zomer, A.; OConnell Motherway, M.; MacSharry, J.; Curley, P.; Fitzgerald, G.F.; & Van Sinderen, D. Ribose utilization by the human commensal Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003. Microbial Biotechnology. 2009;3(3):311-323.
  • Pokusaeva, K.; Kuisiene, N.; Jasinskyte, D.; Rutiene, K.; Saleikiene, J.; & Chitavichius, D. Novel bacteriocins produced by Geobacillus stearothermophilus. Central European Journal of Biology. 2009;4(2):196-203.
  • Pokusaeva, K.; OConnell-Motherway, M.; Zomer, A.; Fitzgerald, G.F.; & Van Sinderen, D. Characterization of two novel alpha-glucosidases from Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009 Feb;75(4):1135-1143.


  • Pokusaeva, K, L. Jones, T. Nguyen, R. Carpenter, and J.M. Sturino. Platform to Identify Novel Therapeutics Effective Against Clostridium difficile-associated Diarrhea, Sackler Colloquia, Microbes and Health. November 2009, Irvine, Ca, USA.
  • M. Ferguson, K. Pokusaeva, I. Zorych, L.N. Thomas, N.D. Turner, S.S. Taddeo, E.S. Callaway, Y.Y. Fan, R.S. Chapkin, J.R. Lupton, and J.M. Sturino. Resistant Starch Differentially Stimulates the Proliferation of Native Gastrointestinal Bifidobacteria, Sackler Colloquia, Microbes and Health. November 2009, Irvine, Ca, USA.
  • Pokusaeva, K., OConnell-Motherway, M., Fitzgerald, G.F., and Douwe van Sinderen. New insight on sugar metabolism in Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003, Mucosal Immunology and Intestinal Microflora Symposium 2009. June 9, 2009, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, UK
  • Pokusaeva, K., OConnell-Motherway, M., Fitzgerald, G.F., and Douwe van Sinderen. Palatinose and cellodextrin metabolism in Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003, SGM Edinburgh International Conference Centre meeting. March 31 – April 3, 2008, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
  • Pokusaeva, K., Neves, A.R.; Zomer, OConnell-Motherway, M., Fitzgerald, G.F., and Douwe van Sinderen. Carbohydrate metabolism in Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003, Ninth Symposium on Lactic Acid Bacteria. August 31 – September 4, 2008, Egmond ann Zee, The Nethelands
  • Pokusaeva, K., OConnell-Motherway, M., Fitzgerald, G.F., and Douwe van Sinderen. Identification and characterization of the gene cluster for palatinose metabolism from Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003, 2nd International Symposium on Propionibacteria & Bifidobacteria: Dairy and Probiotic Applications. June 5-8, 2007, Wadahl, Norway
  • Pokusaeva, K., OConnell-Motherway, M., Fitzgerald, G.F., and Douwe van Sinderen. Analysis of sugar metabolism in Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003, The 20th International ICFMH Symposium food safety and food biotechnology: diversity and global impact. August 29 – September 2, 2006 Alma Mater Studiorum, Bologna, Italy

Links of Interest


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