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Gerardo R. Vasta

Gerardo R. Vasta Ph.D.

Academic Title: Professor
Primary Appointment: Microbiology and Immunology
Location: Columbus Center, 701 E. Pratt Street, 3061/3062
Phone: (410) 234-8826
Fax: (410) 234-8896

Personal History:


1972: Chemist, School of Exact Sciences, National University, La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina
1973: Licenciate in Biochemistry, School of Exact Sciences, National University, La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina
1976: Licenciate in Zoology, School of Natural Sciences, National University, La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina
1978: Doctor in Biochemistry, School of Exact Sciences, National University, La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina
1980: Doctor in Natural Sciences (Zoology), School of Natural Sciences, National University, La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina 

Postgraduate Education and Training

1979-1980: Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Laboratory Medicine, Clinical Immunology Section Roswell Park Memorial Institute, Buffalo, NY
1981-1982: Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), Charleston, SC


2010- present: Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Program in the Biology of Model Systems, IMET
1997 - 2010: Professor, Center of Marine Biotechnology, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI)
1996 - 2001: Consultant for Research, Department of Biological Sciences, George Washington University
1993 & 2003: Visiting Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, School of Exact Sciences, National University, La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
1992 - 1996: Faculty Associate (Professor), Continuing Education Program, Johns Hopkins University
1989 - 1997: Associate Professor, Center of Marine Biotechnology, UMBI
1984-1989: Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Medical University of South Carolina

Research Interests:

Molecular, biochemical, structural, and functional aspects of protein-carbohydrate interactions relevant to immunity and early development:
    (a) Function/structure/evolution of innate immune mechanisms in vertebrates (Model organisms: zebrafish, amphibians, and mouse), and invertebrates (Model organisms: mollusks and tunicates).
    (b) Role of protein carbohydrate interactions in early development and cancer (zebrafish, mouse, and human).
    (c) Biochemical, molecular and genomic approaches to the study of recognition, signaling, and mechanisms for intracellular survival of protistan parasites (Model system: P. marinus and its host, the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica).

Lab Techniques and Equipment:

The lab implements molecular, biochemical, genomic, and structure/function experimental approaches.


Selected Publications

Bianchet, M.A., Ahmed, H., Vasta, G.R., Amzel, L.M. (2000) A soluble ÃY-galactosyl-binding lectin (galectin) from toad (Bufo arenarum Hensel) ovary: Crystallographic studies of two protein-sugar complexes. Proteins, 40: 378-388,

Coss CA, Robledo JA, Ruiz GM, Vasta, GR (2001) Description of Perkinsus andrewsi n. sp. isolated from the Baltic clam (Macoma balthica) by characterization of the ribosomal RNA locus, and development of a species-specific PCR-based diagnostic assay. J Eukaryot Microbiol. 48: 52-61.

Coss CA, Robledo JA, Vasta GR (2001) Fine structure of clonally propagated in vitro life stages of a Perkinsus sp. isolated from the Baltic clam Macoma balthica. J Eukaryot Microbiol. 48: 38-51.

Vasta, G.R., Lambris J.D. (2002) Innate immunity in the Aegean: ancient pathways for today's survival. Dev. Comp. Immunol. 26: 217-225.

Ahmed, H., M.A. Bianchet, L.M. Amzel, J. Hirabayashi, K.-i. Kasai, Y.Giga-Hama, H. Tohda, and G.R. Vasta (2002) Novel carbohydrate specificity of the 16 kDa galectin from Caenorhabditis elegans: binding to blood group precursor oligosaccharides (Type 1, Type 2, T, and TÃY) and gangliosides. Glycobiology 12:451-461

Bianchet, M. A.,  E. W. Odom, G. R. Vasta and L. M. Amzel (2002) A novel  fucose recognition fold involved in innate immunity. Nature (Struct. Biol.) 9:628-634

Wright, A. C., H. Ahmed, J. D. Gauthier, A. M. Silva, and G. R. Vasta (2002) cDNA cloning and characterization of two iron superoxide dismutases from the oyster parasite Perkinsus marinus. Mol. Biochem. Parasitol. 123:73-77

Schott, E.J., Vasta, G.R. (2003) The PmSOD1 gene of the protistan parasite Perkinsus marinus complements the sod2Delta mutant of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and directs an iron superoxide dismutase to mitochondria. Mol Biochem Parasitol. 126(1): 81-92.

Schott, E.J., J.A.F. Robledo, A. C. Wright, A. M. Silva, and G. R. Vasta. (2003) Gene organization and homology modeling of two iron superoxide dismutases of the early branching protist Perkinsus marinus. Gene 24:309:1-9.

Ahmed, H., S.-J. Du, N. Oâ?TLeary, and G.R. Vasta. (2004) Biochemical and molecular characterization of galectins from zebrafish (Danio rerio). Notochord-specific expression of a proto type galectin during early embryogenesis. Glycobiology 14(3):219-32

Pecher, W.T., J. A. F. Robledo, and G. R. Vasta (2004) Identification of a second rRNA gene unit in the Perkinsus andrewsi genome.  J Eukaryot Microbiol. 51(2):234-245.

Mercer, N.  G.R. Vasta, H. Ahmed, A. McCarthy, S.B. Etcheverry, A. Cortizo (2004) AGE-R3/galectin-3 expression in osteoblast-like cells: regulation by AGEs. Mol Cell Biochem. 266(1-2):17-24.

Vasta, G.R., Ahmed, H., Du, S-J. and Henrikson, D. (2004) Galectins in teleost fish: Zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model species to address their biological roles in development and innate immunity. Glycoconj J. 21(8-9):503-21.

Robledo, J.A.F., P. Courville, M.F. M. Cellier, and G.R. Vasta (2004) Gene organization and expression of the divalent cation transporter Nramp in the protistan parasite Perkinsus marinus. J Parasitol. 90(5):1004-14.

Vasta, G.R., Ahmed, H. and Odom, E.O., (2004) Structural and functional diversity of lectin repertoires in invertebrates, protochordates and ectothermic vertebrates. Curr Opin Struct Biol. 14(5):617-30.

Drgon, T., K. Saito, D.N. Krupatkina, P. Gillevet, B. Whitaker, and G.R. Vasta (2005) Characterization of ichthyocidal activity of Pfiesteria piscicida: dependence on the dinospore cell density. Appl Environ Microbiol. 71(1):519-29.

Odom, E.W. and G.R. Vasta. (2006) Characterization of a binary tandem domain F-type lectin from striped bass (Morone saxatilis). J Biol Chem. 281(3):1698-1713

Asojo, O.A., Schott, E.J., Vasta, G.R., and Silva, A.M. (2006) Structures of PmSOD1 and PmSOD2, two superoxide dismutases from the protozoan parasite Perkinsus marinus Acta Crystallograph. 62:1072-1075

Cammarata, M., Benenati, G., Odom, E.W., Salerno, G., Vizzini, A., Vasta, G.R. and Parrinello, N. (2007) Isolation and characterization of an F-type lectin from gilt head bream (Sparus aurata) serum. Biochim. Biophys. Acta. 1770:150-155

Ahmed, H., Banerjee, P.P. and Vasta, G.R. (2007) Differential expression of galectins in normal, benign and malignant prostate epithelial cells: Silencing of galectin-3 expression in prostate cancer by its promoter methylation. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 358:241-246

Elola, M.T., Wolfenstein-Todel, C., Vasta, G.R. and Rabinovich, G.A. (2007) Galectins: matricellular glycan-binding proteins linking cell adhesion, migration, and survival. Cell Mol Life Sci. 64:1679-700.

Mercer, N.,  Ahmed, H., Etcheverry, S.B., Vasta, G.R., and Cortizo, A.M. (2007)  Advanced glycation end products regulate their receptors and induce apoptosis in osteoblast-like cells. Mol. Cell. Biochem. 306:87-94

Saito, K., Drgon, T., Krupatkina, D.N., Drgonova, J., Terlizzi, D.E., Mercer, N., and Vasta, G.R.  (2007) In vitro encystment and proliferation of Pfiesteria piscicida: Effect(s) of biotic and abiotic factor(s) Appl Environ Microbiol. 73:6410-20

Vasta, G.R., Ahmed, H., Saito, K., Odom, E.W., and Tasumi, S. (2007) Biological Roles of Lectins in Innate Immunity: Molecular and Structural Basis for Diversity in Self/Non-Self Recognition. Adv. Exp. Med. Biol. 598: 389-406

Tasumi, S. and Vasta, G.R. (2007) A novel galectin facilitates entry of the parasite Perkinsus marinus into oyster hemocytes. J. Immunol 179: 3086-98

Rabinovich, G., Toscano, M.A., Jackson, S.S., and Vasta, G.R. (2007) Functions of cell surface galectin-glycoprotein lattices. Curr. Opin. Struct. Biol. 17:513-520

Fernandez-Robledo JA, Lin Z, and Vasta, G.R. (2008) Transfection of the protozoan parasite Perkinsus marinus Molec. Biochem. Parasitol. 157:44-53

Pecher, W.T., Alavi, M., Schott, E.J., Robledo, J.A.F. Roth, L., Berg, S.T. and Vasta, G.R. (2008) Assessment of the northern distribution range of selected Perkinsus species in eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) and hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria) using PCR-based detection assays. J. Parasitol. 95: 410-422

Ahmed, H., and Vasta, G.R. (2008) Unlike mammalian GRIFIN, the zebrafish homologue (DrGRIFIN) represents a functional carbohydrate-binding galectin. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 371: 350-355

Fernandez-Robledo JA, Schott EJ, Vasta GR (2008) Perkinsus marinus superoxide dismutase 2 (PmSOD2) localizes to single-membrane subcellular compartments. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 375:215-219

Ahmed, H., Du, S.J., and Vasta, G.R. (2009) Knockdown of a galectin-1-like protein in zebrafish (Danio rerio) causes defects in skeletal muscle development. Glycoconj J. 26:277-283

Mercer, N., L. Guzman, E. Cueto Rua, R. Drut, H.  Ahmed, G. R. Vasta, M. A. Toscano, G. A. Rabinovich and G. H. Docena (2009) Duodenal intraepithelial lymphocytes from children with cow's milk allergy preferentially bind the glycan-binding protein galectin-3. Int. J. Immunopathol. Pharmacol. 22:207-217.

Lin, Z., Fernández-Robledo, J.A., Cellier, M.F.M., and Vasta, G.R. (2009) Metals and membrane metal transporters in biological systems: The role(s) of Nramp in host-parasite interactions. J. A. Chem. Soc. 97: 210-225

Cammarata, M., Parisi, M.G., Salerno, G., Benenati, G., Vizzini, A., Vazzana, M., Vasta, G.R., and Parrinello, N. (2009) F-type lectin from the sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax): Purification, cDNA cloning, tissue expression and localization, and opsonic activity. Fish Shellfish Immunol. 27:143-53

Ahmed, H. and Vasta, G.R. (2009) Stage-specific promoter methylation of galectin-3 in prostate cancer: Development of a novel marker for early diagnosis. Transl. Oncol. 2:146-156

Alavi, M., Robledo, J.A., Saito, K. and Vasta, G.R. (2009) In vitro intracellular survival of Perkinsus marinus trophozoites upon phagocytosis by oyster (Crassostrea ariakensis and C. virginica) hemocytes. J Parasitol. 95: 900-907

Poisa-Beiro, L., Dios, S., Ahmed, H., Vasta, G.R., Figueras, A. and Novoa, B. (2009) Nodavirus infection of sea Bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) induces upregulation of galectin-1 expression in head kidney, with potential anti-inflammatory activity. J. Immunol. 183:6600-6611

Vasta, G.R. (2009) Roles of galectins in infection. Nature Reviews Microbiol. 7:424-438.

Craig, S.E.L., Thummel, R., Ahmed, H., Vasta, G.R., Hyde, D.R., and Hitchcock, P.F. (2010) The carbohydrate-binding growth factor galectin 1-like 2 is expressed by proliferating Müller glia and regulates cone photoreceptor regeneration. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 51:3244-52.

Hill, M., Mazal, D., Biron, V.A., Pereyra, L., Ubillos, L., Berriel, E., Ahmed, H., Freire, T., Rondán, M., Vasta, G.R., Liu, F.-T., Iglesias, M.M. , and Osinaga, E. (2010) A novel clinically-relevant animal model to study galectin-3 and its ligands during colon carcinogenesis. J. Histochem. Cytochem. 58:553-65

Robledo, J.A.F., and Vasta, G.R. (2010) Production of recombinant proteins from protozoan parasites. Trends Parasitol. 26:244-54

Joseph, S.J., Fernandez-Robledo, J.A., Gardner, M.J., El-Sayed, N.M., Kuo, C.-H., Schott, E.J., Wang, H., Kissinger, J.G. and Vasta, G.R. (2010) The alveolate Perkinsus marinus: Biological insights from EST gene discovery. BMC Genomics 11:228-49.

Bianchet, M. A., Odom, E.W., Vasta, G.R.  and Amzel, L.M. (2010) Structure and specificity of a binary tandem domain F-lectin from striped bass (Morone saxatilis). J Mol Biol. 401:239-52

Invited Contributions, Book Chapters, and Books

Harvell, C.D., Kim, K., Burkholder, J.M., Colwell, R.R., Epstein, P.R., Grimes, D.J., Hofmann, E.E., Lipp, E.K., Osterhaus, A.D.M.E., Overstreet, R.M., Porter, J.W., Smith, G.W., and Vasta, G.R. (1999) Emerging marine diseases-climate links and anthropogenic factors. Science, 285: 1505-1510

Place, A. Saito, K. Deeds, J. Robledo, J.A., and Vasta, GR. (2007) Ichthyocidal activity of Pfiesteria spp and Karlodinium spp: Ecobiology, toxicology, and molecular detection of algal blooms. In: Seafood and Freshwater Toxins. Pharmacology, Physiology, and Detection. Taylor & Francis. Second edition. (Botana, L.M. Ed.). Chapter 36, Part X, 717-752.

Vasta, G.R., Ahmed, H., Odom, E.W., Saito, K. and Tasumi, S. (2007) Lectin repertoires in Invertebrates and Ectothermic Vertebrates: Their Roles in Embryogenesis and Innate Immunity. In: Comprehensive Glycoscience, Eds: Kamerling, J., Boons, G.-J., Lee, Y. C., Suzuki, A., Voragen, A. G. J., Elsevier (New York), 17-35.

Vasta, G.R., Ahmed, H., Eds. (2008) Animal Lectins: A Functional View. Taylor & Francis, CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 558.