John Franklin Rawls
Professor of Molecular Genetics and MicrobiologyWe seek to understand how the intestinal microbiome contributes to vertebrate physiology and disease. To that end, we leverage complementary zebrafish and mouse models to study the integrative physiology of host-microbiome interactions. This work has identified novel and conserved mechanisms by which intestinal bacteria regulate dietary fat metabolism and systemic innate immunity. We also apply genomic approaches in these animal models to understand the transcriptional regulatory pathways utilized by the intestinal epithelium to mediate host responses to the microbiome. Using this approach, we have identified mechanisms of transcriptional and chromatin regulation that have been conserved during vertebrate evolution and also contribute to modern human diseases such as the inflammatory bowel diseases, obesity, and diabetes. To further advance our understanding of obesity pathophysiology, we developed the zebrafish as a model system for studying adipose tissues and identifying new environmental and genetic regulators of adiposity. We are also engaged in translational research in humans and animal models to define microbial and metabolic determinants of obesity and efficacy of weight loss intervention. Grounded in comparative and integrative physiology, our research program has been effective in discovering ancient mechanisms of host-microbiome interaction that are conserved across animal taxa and contribute to the etiology of modern human diseases. These insights are advancing our understanding of host-microbiome relationships in vertebrate physiology and identifying novel therapeutic targets for human diseases ranging from inflammatory bowel disease to obesity to neurological disorders.
Appointments and Affiliations
- Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
- Professor in Medicine
- Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
- Office Location: 323A CARL Building Box 3580, 213 Research Drive, Durham, NC 27710
- Office Phone: (919) 613-7212
- Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ph.D. Washington University in St. Louis, 2001
- B.S. Emory University, 1996
Awards, Honors, and Distinctions
- Fellow. American Academy of Microbiology. 2021
- Fellow. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 2016
- Kavli Fellow. Kavli Frontiers of Science Program. 2009
- Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences. Pew Charitable Trust. 2008
- Mentored Research Scientist Development Award. National Institutes of Health. 2006
- Ruth L. Kirschstein Individual National Research Service Award. National Institutes of Health. 2002
- Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Medical Scientist Fellow. Washington University School of Medicine. 2001
- Victor Hamburger Prize in Developmental Biology. Washington University School of Medicine. 2001
- BIOLOGY 728F: University Program in Genetics and Genomics Biological Solutions Module VI
- CMB 778F: University Program in Genetics and Genomics Biological Solutions Module VI
- MGM 593: Research Independent Study
- MGM 778F: University Program in Genetics and Genomics Biological Solutions Module VI
- UPGEN 778A: University Program in Genetics and Genomics Biological Solutions Module I
- UPGEN 778F: University Program in Genetics and Genomics Biological Solutions Module VI
In the News
- Rawls and Wang elected to the American Academy of Microbiology (Feb 26, 2021 | School of Medicine)
- Fatty Meal Interrupts Gut’s Communication With The Body, But Why? (Dec 17, 2019)
- Zebrafish Researchers Discover a Self-Defense Mechanism of the Gut (Aug 5, 2019)
- Microbe Scientists Launching Expanded Microbiome Center (Nov 20, 2017)
- Microbes Seen Controlling Action of Hosts Genes (May 17, 2017)
- Three Duke Researchers Named AAAS Fellows (Nov 28, 2016)
- A Little Dirt Won't Hurt You (Jun 17, 2016)
- Specific Fatty Acids May Worsen Crohn’s Disease (Sep 15, 2015)
- Gut Worms Protect Babies’ Brains From Inflammation (Jul 20, 2015)
- Duke-UNC Collaboration Creating "Gut-on-a-Chip" (Mar 30, 2015 | Duke Translational Medicine Institute)
- Gene may influence body shape, metabolic disease risk, study finds (Mar 24, 2015 | Fox News)
- New Gene Influences Apple or Pear Shape, Risk of Future Disease (Mar 23, 2015)
- Researchers Discover Molecular Trigger of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Feb 16, 2015)
- Microbiome Researchers Find Common Ground (Jan 8, 2015 | Duke Research Blog)
- Creeping Fat (Nov 20, 2014)
- MIcrobes R Us (Oct 23, 2013)
- McCann, JR; Bihlmeyer, NA; Roche, K; Catherine, C; Jawahar, J; Kwee, LC; Younge, NE; Silverman, J; Ilkayeva, O; Sarria, C; Zizzi, A; Wootton, J; Poppe, L; Anderson, P; Arlotto, M; Wei, Z; Granek, JA; Valdivia, RH; David, LA; Dressman, HK; Newgard, CB; Shah, SH; Seed, PC; Rawls, JF; Armstrong, SC, The Pediatric Obesity Microbiome and Metabolism Study (POMMS): Methods, Baseline Data, and Early Insights., Obesity (Silver Spring), vol 29 no. 3 (2021), pp. 569-578 [10.1002/oby.23081] [abs].
- Chen, C; Gu, Y; Philippe, J; Zhang, P; Bachman, H; Zhang, J; Mai, J; Rufo, J; Rawls, JF; Davis, EE; Katsanis, N; Huang, TJ, Acoustofluidic rotational tweezing enables high-speed contactless morphological phenotyping of zebrafish larvae., Nature Communications, vol 12 no. 1 (2021) [10.1038/s41467-021-21373-3] [abs].
- Ye, L; Bae, M; Cassilly, CD; Jabba, SV; Thorpe, DW; Martin, AM; Lu, H-Y; Wang, J; Thompson, JD; Lickwar, CR; Poss, KD; Keating, DJ; Jordt, S-E; Clardy, J; Liddle, RA; Rawls, JF, Enteroendocrine cells sense bacterial tryptophan catabolites to activate enteric and vagal neuronal pathways., Cell Host Microbe, vol 29 no. 2 (2021), pp. 179-196.e9 [10.1016/j.chom.2020.11.011] [abs].
- Heppert, JK; Davison, JM; Kelly, C; Mercado, GP; Lickwar, CR; Rawls, JF, Transcriptional programmes underlying cellular identity and microbial responsiveness in the intestinal epithelium., Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol, vol 18 no. 1 (2021), pp. 7-23 [10.1038/s41575-020-00357-6] [abs].
- Microbiome Centers Consortium COVID Committee,, Coordinating and Assisting Research at the SARS-CoV-2/Microbiome Nexus., Msystems, vol 5 no. 6 (2020) [10.1128/mSystems.00999-20] [abs].