Research in my lab uses multiple complementary approaches to understand how host-microbe interactions in the intestine regulate digestive physiology and energy balance.
The first method employs genetic, gnotobiotic, and in vivo imaging techniques to determine how commensal microorganisms (microbiota) interact with vertebrate hosts to regulate their nutrition and immunity, as well as the mechanisms underlying assembly of intestinal microbial communities. The Rawls Lab utilizes the zebrafish as a host model in which host and microbial cells can be viewed and manipulated a transparent living vertebrate. Researchers in this lab have pioneered the use of germ-free or gnotobiotic zebrafish to investigate the roles of microorganisms in vertebrate biology, and they are using these methods to investigate the bacterial signals and responsive host pathways that regulate host immunity, nutrition, and gene expression.
In addition to this, Rawls' laboratory is utilizing the zebrafish system to investigate mechanisms underlying the formation and function of adipose tissues. Scientists here have developed methods for in vivo imaging of zebrafish adipose tissue, and they are currently utilizing these techniques to explore the developmental and environmental processes regulating adipose tissue growth and physiology. In both of these fields, the Rawls Lab has used zebrafish and mice to model key aspects of human physiology and pathophysiology and to gain new insights into underlying mechanisms.
John Rawls is an Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, with secondary appointments in the Center for Genomics of Microbial Systems, the Center for Host-Microbial Interactions, and the Duke Cancer Institute. After completing his undergraduate education at Emory University (1992-1996), he received a Ph.D. in Developmental Biology from Washington University under the mentorship of Dr. Stephen Johnson (1996-2001). He then trained as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Jeffrey Gordon at the Center for Genome Sciences at Washington University (2001-2006). Prior to joining Duke, he was a faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2006-2013) ("John Rawls Biography," 2017).