Laurence Rahme, PhD

Associate Professor of Surgery, Microbiology and Immunobiology

Harvard Medical School

Associate Microbiologist

Director of the Molecular Surgical Laboratory

Massachusetts General Hospital

Dr. Rahme has a distinguished record of academic achievement in bacterial regulatory systems that govern virulence and host responses to infection and burns. Her research group studies pathogen and host mechanisms that mediate or restrict bacterial pathogenesis in order to obtain knowledge that can be applied toward the development of host-protective interventions targeting critical pathways. She has an international reputation for her pioneering work on the development of anti-virulence drugs that block pathogenesis but not cell viability, as well as the use of non-vertebrate hosts to study bacterial-host interactions. Anti-virulence drugs will limit the use of antibiotics and it is believed that they will decrease the development of antibiotic resistance, while preserving the beneficial flora. Moreover, her group developed the first pipeline that permits the identification of patients with a high risk of developing multiple infections after burns, days before infection occurs. This information permits personalized therapy, and facilitates the determination of appropriate treatment courses, particularly in regard to antibiotic use. As such her pioneering research is bridging clinical and basic science and opens new avenues for novel therapeutics.

Her research is funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), Department of Defense (DoD) and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) among others. She served thus far as mentor to more than 15 pre-doctoral, pre-medical and graduate students and more than 30 post-doctoral research fellows (PhD and MD), fifteen of whom have obtained assistant professorship positions, while other past trainees have chosen clinical, administrative or biotechnology positions.

She is on the Advisory and Editorial Board of PLOS Biology, Journal of Pathogens, F1000 and Pathogens and she has served on NIH, NSF and on several national and international foundation review panels and also served as an associate editor and ad-hoc editor or reviewer for many scientific journals. Her publications have been cited more than 7,000 times.  She is the leading inventor of more than 10 patents and patent applications.

Laurence received her BS in Biology from the University of Naples, Italy, and earned her Master’s in Molecular Genetics from the Institute of Genetics and Biophysics, CNR and University of Naples, Italy and her PhD in molecular host-microbe interactions from the University of California at Berkeley, USA. She conducted a postdoctoral fellowship at MGH and Harvard Medical School in the Departments of Molecular Biology and Genetics, respectively. At MGH she is also affiliated with the Department of Molecular Biology and Division of Infectious Diseases. She also holds a scientific staff position at Shriners Hospital for Children, Boston. Dr. Rahme is the Scientific Founder, and a member of the scientific advisory board of Spero Therapeutics located in Cambridge, MA.

Relevant publications

Starkey M, Lepine F, Maura D, et al. Identification of Anti-virulence Compounds That Disrupt Quorum-Sensing Regulated Acute and Persistent Pathogenicity. Whiteley M, ed. PLoS Pathogens 2014;10(8):e1004321. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1004321. PMCID: PMC4140854

Righi V, Apidianakis Y, Mintzopoulos D, et al. In vivo high-resolution magic angle spinning magnetic resonance spectroscopy of Drosophila melanogaster at 14.1 T shows trauma in aging and in innate immune-deficiency is linked to reduced insulin signaling. International Journal of Molecular Medicine 2010;26(2):175-184. doi:10.3892/ijmm_00000450. PMCID: PMC3722717

Tzika AA, Constantinou C, Bandyopadhaya A, et al. A Small Volatile Bacterial Molecule Triggers Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Murine Skeletal Muscle. Wu M, ed. PLoS ONE 2013;8(9):e74528. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074528. PMCID: PMC3787027

Righi V, Constantinou C, Mintzopoulos D, et al. Mitochondria-targeted antioxidant promotes recovery of skeletal muscle mitochondrial function after burn trauma assessed by in vivo 31P nuclear magnetic resonance and electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy. The FASEB Journal 2013;27(6):2521-2530. doi:10.1096/fj.12-220764. PMCID: PMC3659352

Bandyopadhaya A, Kesarwani M, Que YA, He J, Padfield K, Tompkins R, Rahme LG. The quorum sensing volatile molecule 2-amino acetophenon modulates host immune responses in a manner that promotes life with unwanted guests. PLoS Pathog. 2012; 8(11):e1003024

Bangi E, Pitsouli C, Rahme LG, Cagan R, Apidianakis Y. Immune response to bacteria induces dissemination of Ras-activated Drosophila hindgut cells. EMBO Rep. 2012 Jun; 13(6):569-76

Kesarwani M, Hazan R, He J, Que YA, Que Y, Apidianakis Y, Lesic B, Xiao G, Dekimpe V, Milot S, Deziel E, Lépine F, Rahme LG. A quorum sensing regulated small volatile molecule reduces acute virulence and promotes chronic infection phenotypes. PLoS Pathog. 2011 Aug; 7(8):e1002192

Hazan R, He J, Xiao G, Dekimpe V, Apidianakis Y, Lesic B, Astrakas C, Déziel E, Lépine F, Rahme LG. Homeostatic interplay between bacterial cell-cell signaling and iron in virulence. PLoS Pathog. 2010 Mar; 6(3):e1000810

Apidianakis Y, Rahme LG. Drosophila melanogaster as a model host for studying Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection. Nat Protoc. 2009; 4(9):1285-94

Starkey M, Rahme LG. Modeling Pseudomonas aeruginosa pathogenesis in plant hosts. Nat Protoc. 2009; 4(2):117-24

Padfield KE, Astrakas LG, Zhang Q, Gopalan S, Dai G, Mindrinos MN, Tompkins RG, Rahme LG, Tzika AA. Burn injury causes mitochondrial dysfunction in skeletal muscle. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Apr 12; 102(15):5368-73

Apidianakis Y, Mindrinos MN, Xiao W, Lau GW, Baldini RL, Davis RW, Rahme LG. Profiling early infection responses: Pseudomonas aeruginosa eludes host defenses by suppressing antimicrobial peptide gene expression. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Feb 15; 102(7):2573-8

Lesic B, Lépine F, Déziel E, Zhang J, Zhang Q, Padfield K, Castonguay MH, Milot S, Stachel S, Tzika AA, Tompkins RG, Rahme LG. Inhibitors of pathogen intercellular signals as selective anti-infective compounds. PLoS Pathog. 2007 Sep 14; 3(9):1229-39

Déziel E, Lépine F, Milot S, He J, Mindrinos MN, Tompkins RG, Rahme LG. Analysis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa 4-hydroxy-2-alkylquinolines (HAQs) reveals a role for 4-hydroxy-2-heptylquinoline in cell-to-cell communication. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Feb 3; 101(5):1339-44

He J, Baldini RL, Déziel E, Saucier M, Zhang Q, Liberati NT, Lee D, Urbach J, Goodman HM, Rahme LG. The broad host range pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain PA14 carries two pathogenicity islands harboring plant and animal virulence genes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Feb 24; 101(8):2530-5

Cao H, Krishnan G, Goumnerov B, Tsongalis J, Tompkins R, Rahme LG. A quorum sensing-associated virulence gene of Pseudomonas aeruginosa encodes a LysR-like transcription regulator with a unique self-regulatory mechanism. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Dec 4; 98(25):14613-8

Mahajan-Miklos S, Tan MW, Rahme LG, Ausubel FM. Molecular mechanisms of bacterial virulence elucidated using a Pseudomonas aeruginosa-Caenorhabditis elegans pathogenesis model. Cell. 1999 Jan 8; 96(1):47-56

Tan MW, Rahme LG, Sternberg JA, Tompkins RG, Ausubel FM. Pseudomonas aeruginosa killing of Caenorhabditis elegans used to identify P. aeruginosa virulence factors. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Mar 2; 96(5):2408-13

Rahme LG, Tan MW, Le L, Wong SM, Tompkins RG, Calderwood SB, Ausubel FM. Use of model plant hosts to identify Pseudomonas aeruginosa virulence factors. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Nov 25; 94(24):13245-50

Rahme LG, Stevens EJ, Wolfort SF, Shao J, Tompkins RG, Ausubel FM. Common virulence factors for bacterial pathogenicity in plants and animals. Science. 1995 Jun 30; 268(5219):1899-902


Laurence Rahme, PhD
Massachusetts General Hospital-Surgery, Thier/Rm 340A
Rahme Lab
50 Blossom Street 
Boston, MA 02114

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Grace McDonald-SmithLaurence Rahme, PhD