H. Rex Gaskins

Photograph
Biography

Dr. Gaskins obtained the Ph.D. degree in nutritional sciences with a research focus in cell biology from The University of Georgia in 1989. From 1989-92, he completed postdoctoral studies in mouse genetics at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. He is now a Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with appointments in the Departments of Animal Sciences and Pathobiology, the Division of Nutritional Sciences, and the Institute for Genomic Biology.

Research in his laboratory focuses on host-intestinal microbiota interactions as they pertain to inflammatory disorders and colorectal cancer and redox regulation of cell fate. A particular interest has been microbial mechanisms of hydrogen disposal in the colon and how hydrogen sulfide (H2S), the respiratory end product of hydrogenotrophic, sulfate-reducing bacteria, impacts the colonic epithelium. We demonstrated that H2S modulates the expression of genes involved in cell-cycle progression and triggers both inflammatory and DNA repair responses in nontransformed intestinal epithelial cells, and together with Professor Michael Plewa, provided the first evidence that exogenous H2S is a potent genotoxin at concentrations many-fold less than have been measured in the human colon. We then proved that H2S induces DNA damage in the absence of cellular metabolism, and that this damage was mediated by free radicals. Most recently, we demonstrated that the colonic mucosa of healthy human subjects is persistently colonized by all the three groups of hydrogenotrophic microbes; reductive acetogens, methanogenic archaea and sulfate reducing bacteria. Together, our findings underpin working hypotheses that aim to define the nature of syntrophic interactions among fermentative bacteria and hydrogen utilizing microbes and how diet may influence those relationships to impact risk for colorectal cancer.

Keywords

Colonic microbiota, colorectal cancer, microbial hydrogen and sulfur metabolism

More Information

Visit http://lab.igb.illinois.edu/gaskins to learn more about Dr. Gaskins, including publication information.