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Michael B. Fessler, M.D.

Senior Investigator

Immunity, Inflammation, and Disease Laboratory / Clinical Investigation of Host Defense


Building 101, Room E249
111 T.W. Alexander Drive
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709


Research Topics

The Host Defense Group investigates molecular and cellular mechanisms of the innate immune response to environmental 'pathogen-associated molecular patterns' (PAMPs), using the macrophage and the murine lung as in vitro and in vivo model systems. Within this platform, our focus is in defining novel areas of crosstalk between the innate immune response and cholesterol trafficking. Our central hypothesis is that cholesterol/membrane trafficking and innate immunity signaling are intrinsically coupled processes, and that perturbations in each therefore regulate the other. Our group in particular has a special interest in defining emerging roles for cholesterol trafficking in regulation of inflammatory and host defense events in the lung. Given the high prevalences of dyslipidemia and inflammatory lung disease in modern society and the translational nature of our program, these studies have potential for impacting both public health and the clinical care of individual patients.

Our laboratory's major directive is that the manipulation/perturbation of cell cholesterol will yield novel: 1) mechanisms underlying the induction and regulation of the innate immune response; 2) determinants of inflammatory phenotype in human subjects; and 3) sites for intervening in innate immunity and the diseases in which it plays a role.


Michael Fessler received his A.B. in philosophy from Princeton University in 1992, and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1996. He subsequently completed an internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a pulmonary-critical care medicine fellowship at University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. During his research fellowship, Dr. Fessler trained in the innate immunity laboratory of Dr. G. Scott Worthen at National Jewish Health, and then joined the National Jewish faculty from 2002-2006. In 2006, Dr. Fessler started as a Tenure Track Investigator in the IRP of the NIEHS, in which role he heads the Clinical Investigation in Host Defense Group. Dr. Fessler has received several awards, including the NIEHS Early Career Award, NIEHS Intramural Research Award, and the American Thoracic Society Carol Basbaum Award, and serves on the editorial board of PLoS One and as a Faculty Member of F1000.

Selected Publications

  1. Draper DW, Madenspacher JH, Dixon D, King DH, Remaley AT, Fessler MB. ATP-binding cassette transporter G1 deficiency dysregulates host defense in the lung. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2010;182(3):404-12.
  2. Jaramillo R, Cohn RD, Crockett PW, Gowdy KM, Zeldin DC, Fessler MB. Relation between objective measures of atopy and myocardial infarction in the United States. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013;131(2):405-11.e1-11.
  3. Merrick BA, Dhungana S, Williams JG, Aloor JJ, Peddada S, Tomer KB, Fessler MB. Proteomic profiling of S-acylated macrophage proteins identifies a role for palmitoylation in mitochondrial targeting of phospholipid scramblase 3. Mol Cell Proteomics. 2011;10(10):M110.006007.
  4. Madenspacher JH, Azzam KM, Gong W, Gowdy KM, Vitek MP, Laskowitz DT, Remaley AT, Wang JM, Fessler MB. Apolipoproteins and apolipoprotein mimetic peptides modulate phagocyte trafficking through chemotactic activity. J Biol Chem. 2012;287(52):43730-40.
This page was last updated on July 17th, 2017