Utpal Pal

Utpal Pal
Organizational Unit
Utpal Pal
University of Maryland
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Veterinary Medicine
Anne Arundel County UME Office
97 Dairy Lane
Gambrills, Maryland 21054
Phone (main): 301 314-2118
Phone (alt): 310-314-8257
Fax: 301 314-6855
Affiliate Professor
Utpal Pal
University of Maryland College of CMNS
4112A Plant Sciences Building
4291 Fieldhouse Drive
College Park, Maryland 20742-4454
Phone (main): 301 405-3911
Fax: 301 314-9290


  • Lyme disease, Leptospirosis and Vector Biology, CRISPR/Cas9 mediated Genome Editing in model Rodents and Ticks
  • Genetic and antigenic determinants of Borrelia burgdorferi infection
  • Pathogenesis of Lyme disease
  • Vaccine and diagnostic potentials of select antigens
  • Host-pathogen interactions - pathogen receptors in the vector and hosts
  • Virulence factors of Leptospira interrogans
  • Biology and genetics of Ixodes scapulars ticks
  • Anti-Tick Vaccines
  • Use of CRISPR/Cas9 mediated Genome Editing to understand Host-Pathogen Interactions and Immunity

Research Interest

Vector-borne diseases are the highest known cause of global human fatality. Many microbes survive in discrete sets of vertebrate and arthropod hosts and lead to well-known diseases including malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis, sleeping sickness, and leishmaniasis. Our primary research interest is to study microbial pathogenesis and host-pathogen interactions to understand the mechanisms by which arthropod-borne pathogens persist in nature. Ongoing focus of my laboratory is a bacterial pathogen, Borrelia burgdorferi, which is responsible for Lyme disease or Lyme borreliosis , the most prevalent arthropod-borne disease in the United States, and in Europe and parts of Asia. The microbe persists in nature through a tick-rodent infection cycle. B. burgdorferi is transmitted to its natural host (rodents) or to accidental hosts (humans and domestic animals) via ticks belonging to the Ixodes scapularis complex. B. burgdorferi invades and persists in multiple organs in mammals inducing an array of clinical complications. The recent introduction of investigative biology tools in genomics and proteomics have significantly contributed to our ability to unravel the molecular mechanisms of B. burgdorferi persistence in its complex enzootic cycle. In our ongoing research efforts, we have made use of these recent advances to elucidate the molecular details by which B. burgdorferi enters, persists and is transmitted through tick and mammals. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis and special biology at the host pathogen interfaces will contribute towards development of therapeutic strategies to interrupt transmission of vector-borne diseases, for which vaccines are mostly unavailable.


M. Sc (1988) University of Calcutta Ph.D. (1994) University of Calcutta Postdoctoral Training (2002) Yale University

Positions and Employment

1988-1990: Junior Research Fellow, University of Calcutta; 1991-1993: Senior Research Fellow, Labonya Prova Bose trust; 1994-1997: Postdoctoral Fellow, IICB; 1998-2002: Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale University School of Medicine; 2002-2006: Associate Research Scientist, Yale University School of Medicine; 2006-2011: Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park; 2011-Current: Associate Professor, University of Maryland, College Park, 2016-Current: Full Professor, University of Maryland, College Park; 2016-Current, Director, Veterinary Medical Sciences (VMSC) Graduate Program


Our research is funded by grants from NIH-NIAID and NIH-NIAMS, American Heart Association, Arthritis Foundation and MAES

Current Lab Members

Xiuli Yang, PhD, Research Assistant Professor < xyang1@umd.edu>

Kamoltip Promnares PhD, Research Assistant Professor <kpromnar@umd.edu>

Xuran Zhuang, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow < xzhuang1@umd.edu>

Quentin Bernard, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow <qbernard@umd.edu>

Chrysoula Kitsou, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow <ckitsou@umd.edu>

Shelby Foor, B.S, Graduate (PhD) Student <sfoor@umd.edu>

Shraboni Dutta M.Sc, Graduate (PhD) Student <shraboni@umd.edu>

Sandhya Bista, BVSc. Graduate (PhD) Student <sbista1@umd.edu>  

Recent Selected Lab publications

Bernard Q, Smith AA, Yang X, Koci J, Foor SD, Cramer SD, Zhuang X, Dwyer JE, Lin Y, Mongodin E, Marques A, Leong JM, Anguita J and Pal U. Plasticity in early immune evasion strategies of a bacterial pathogen. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA [Epub ahead of print] doi: 10.1073/pnas.1718595115. 2018.

Koci J, Bernard Q, Yang X, and Pal U.  Borrelia burgdorferi surface protein Lmp1 facilitates pathogen dissemination through ticks as studied by an artificial membrane feeding system. Sci Rep 8: 1910, 2018.​

Singh P, Verma D, Backstedt BT, Kaur S, Kumar M, Smith AA, Sharma K, Yang K, Azevedo JF, Gomes-Solecki M, Buyuktanir O, and Pal U. Borrelia burgdorferi BBI39 paralogs are targets of protective immunity inducing microbicidal responses and reducing pathogen persistence either in hosts or in the vector. J Infect Dis 215: 1000-1009, 2017​

Thakur M, Sharma K, Chao K, Smith AA, Herzberg O and Pal U. A protein-protein interaction dictates Borrelial infectivity. Sci Rep 7:  2932. 2017.​

Smith AA, Navasa N, Yang X, Wilder CN, Buyuktanir O, Marques A, Anguita J, Pal U. Cross-Species Interferon Signaling Boosts Microbicidal Activity within the Tick Vector. Cell Host Microbe 20: 91-8, 2016

Yang X, Lin Y, Heselpoth RD, Buyuktanir O, Qin J, Kung F, Nelson DN, Leong JM, and Pal U. Middle region of a Borrelia burgdorferi surface protein interacts with host chondroitin-6-sulfate and independently facilitates infection. Cell Microbiol 18: 97-110., 2016.

Kung F Kaur S, Smith AA, Yang X, Wilder CN, Sharma K, Buyuktanir O, and Pal U. A Borrelia burgdorferi surface-exposed transmembrane protein lacking detectable immune responses supports pathogen persistence and constitutes a vaccine target. J Infect Dis 213: 1786-95, 2016.

Ye M, Sharma K, Thakur M, Smith AA, Buyuktanir O, Xiang X, Yang X, Promnares K, Lou Y, Yang XF, Pal U. HtrA, a Temperature- and Stationary Phase-Activated Protease Involved in Maturation of a Key Microbial Virulence Determinant, Facilitates Borrelia burgdorferi Infection in Mammalian Hosts. Infect Immun 84: 2372-81, 2016

Kariu T, Sharma K, Singh P, Smith AA, Backstedt BT, Buyuktanir O, and Pal U. BB0323 and novel virulence determinant BB0238: Borrelia burgdorferi proteins that interact with and stabilize each other and are critical for infectivity. J Infect Dis 211: 462-71, 2015.

Smith AA and Pal U. Immunity-related genes in Ixodes scapularis – perspectives from genome information. Front Cell Infect Microbiol 4: 116, 2014. Review article. ​

Yang X, Smith AA, Williams MS, and Pal U.  A Dityrosine Network Mediated by Dual Oxidase and Peroxidase Influences the Persistence of Lyme Disease Pathogens within the Vector.  J Biol Chem 289: 12813-22, 2014. < Published with Journal Cover image >

 Complete List of Published Work in MyBibliography: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/myncbi/browse/collection/48531061/?sort=date...