Department Directory

Jessica Kay Bell, Ph.D.

Jessica Kay BellAssistant Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

PO Box 980614
Richmond, VA 23298-0614

Telephone: (804) 828-3739

  • B. A., 1994, Gustavus Adolphus College
  • Ph. D., 2001, University of Minnesota
  • 2001-2002, University of California-San Francisco
  • 2002-2006, National Institutes of Health

Protein Interactions in the Innate Immune Response

Innate immunity is an ancient and evolutionarily conserved host defense present in all multi-cellular organisms. Conserved pathogen-associated molecular patterns recognized by the innate immune system trigger an immediate inflammatory response, providing the first line of defense against pathogen. Protein-protein interactions in the innate immune system transmit the detection of invading pathogen from receptor to a cytosolic signaling cascade. This cascade ultimately activates transcription factors resulting in the inflammatory response and the induction of adaptive immunity. The vital role of protein-protein interactions can be demonstrated by pathogenic mimics of these interactions to suppress the immune response.

The broad aims of our research are to investigate how:
  1. the common protein scaffold in innate immune receptors, leucine rich repeats, is used to confer ligand specificity
  2. protein-protein interactions mediate the signaling cascade from receptor to transcription factor activation, and
  3. the interchange of proteins within the cascade allows an immune response to be tailored to the pathogen.
In my laboratory we develop expression systems for mammalian proteins, use biochemical and cell-based assays to monitor ligand-protein and protein-protein interactions and analyze at the atomic level via x-ray crystallography the interface of protein-mediated signals.

The laboratory’s long-term research goal is to further the understanding of signal transduction. In turn, our work can be applied to developing therapeutics that either suppress, in the case of sepsis and inflammatory diseases, or activate, in the case of pathogen suppression of the immune system or vaccine adjuvant, the immune response.


View Dr. Bell's Publications via the National Library of Medicine's PubMed.


VCU Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Medical Center
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