Ciona robusta (formerly C. intestinalis) as a model of gut host-microbe interactions

Our lab maintains very close collaborative ties with several faculty throughout the USF system, for example, Dr. Mya Breitbart, USF College of Marine Sciences. With Dr. Breitbart, we co-advise several students and collaborate on some projects involving bacteriophage.
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Larry J. Dishaw, Ph.D.
Principle Investigator


Associate Professor,
University of South Florida
Department of Pediatrics, Molecular Genetics
Children’s Research Institute in St. Petersburg,
801 Sixth Street South, CRI3008
St. Petersburg, Fl 33701

ldishaw [at] health.usf.edu
Post Doctoral Fellow
We are recruiting a new post doc for 2018! Available immediately. Contact us!
Graduate Students
New graduate position available at the PhD level for 2018! Available immediately. Contact us!
Undergraduate Students
Current undergraduates include: Jessica Kramarz, Cheri Lofti, Michael Schepps, Elliana Walster, and Julie Voelschow.
Former Post Doctoral Scientists
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Dr. Assunta ("Susy") Liberti is our postdoc on the NSF phage award. Susy received her PhD training at the world-renowned marine station Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn in Naples, Italy, where she worked on Ciona development and immunity. She was instrumental in our work to understand the developmental expression patterns of VCBPs. In her current work, Susy is helping us develop methods and approaches to using bacteriophage to remodel the gut microbiota and influence the formation of mucosal-associated biofilms. Susy is also leading the way in some very important gene knockdown and knockout experiments.
Former Graduate Students
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Brittany Leigh was our first PhD student, who helped establish collaborative ties between the USF College of Medicine and College of Marine Sciences. Britt was co-advised with Mya Breitbart. Britt took on many roles in the lab but as senior grad student, really helped us launch, develop, and refine our germ-free mariculture system, as well as our bacteriophage and biofilm experiments. Britt, working together with Dr. John Cannon in USF Pediatrics, helped developed many skills in our lab including recombinant protein expression and purification using the FPLC.

Britt was supported by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. She is now a postdoc at Vanderbilt with Seth Bordenstein.

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Alexandria "Lexi" Creasy was a masters student (finished Summer 2018) also co-advised with Mya Breitbart. Lexi worked on on developing, together with mentorship from Dr. Cannon, some of our most complex in vitro 3D matrix assays involving various microbial ecology concepts including phage, biofilms, and direct bacterial competition & succession. Lexi's main project was to characterize single stranded viruses from isolated from the Ciona gut.
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Zachary Graham was a masters student (finished Summer 2018). Zach's main project involved studying prophages in the gut of Ciona and also investigated differential prophage induction. He is very talented in the lab and is currently staying on as a technician and works on all sorts of bacteriology experiments, including some very important phage-mediated lytic assays and prophage-induction experiments.
Our lab works closely with Dr. John Cannon, who is an immunologist and molecular genetics specialist in our division. Currently, he is working with us to help develop most of our recombinant efforts including protein expression and purification as well as the development of genetically manipulated Ciona. John is definitely an essential component of our group!

Our collaborators

  • Jeff Gralnick, University of Minnesota, Microbial Engineering
  • John Dennehy, Queens College, Bacteriophage Ecology
  • Bill Baker, USF Chemistry
  • Les Shaw, USF Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology
  • John Cannon at USF Pediatrics, Molecular Genetics
  • Gary Litman at USF Pediatrics, Molecular Genetics
  • Mya Brietbart at USF Marine Sciences
  • Maureen Groer at USF College of Nursing
  • Jack Gilbert at U. Chicago and Argonne National Labs
  • Hans Peter Grossart, Aquatic Microbial Ecology and Biodiversity, Potsdam University
  • At USF include Stephen Kornfeld, Panida Sriaroon, Jenn Leiding, and Jolan Walter
  • At JH-ACH, Katie Wasylik and Suzanne Jackman
  • Rosaria De Santis and Maria Rosaria Pinto at the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dorhn, Naples, Italy. These collaborators (both now emeritus professors) first introduced us to Ciona and the rest is history!
  • Several additional collaborations and projects are just developing.
*This website is not an official University of South Florida website. Only the Dishaw Lab is responsible for its content.

Our research is or has been supported by:
National Science Foundation (IOS and MCB)
National Institutes of Health (our collaboration with Dr. Groer in USF Nursing)
All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine Foundation (several studies)
University of South Florida College of Medicine Deans Office (several early studies in
Ciona)