Dr. Ellen L. Aho

Professor, Biology; Academic Program Director, Clinical Laboratory Science Biology

The courses I teach include Microbiology and Genetics/Molecular Biology. The research projects students do in my lab focus on bacteria belonging to the genus Neisseria.  This genus includes species that cause serious human disease, as well as nonpathogenic species. One species in this genus, Neisseria meningitidis, is a cause of the disease meningitis.  Cases of meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis are found worldwide, however this organism is responsible for particularly severe epidemic disease in sub-Saharan Africa.  The genus Neisseria also contains several other species that do not typically cause disease and are found as normal inhabitants in the human upper airway.  We are interested in understanding differences between the pathogenic and nonpathogenic Neisseria species, as well as the evolutionary history of this genus.  Projects in our lab include studies focused on bacterial surface structures, called pili, which play a key role in the interaction between Neisseria and human cells, and analyses designed to help us understand interspecies interactions within the genus Neisseria.  You can see some of our projects and the students who have carried them out in the publication list below.

Articles and Conference Proceedings

Wörmann M, Horien C, Johnson E, Liu G, Aho E, Tang C, Exley R.  2016. Neisseria cinerea isolates can adhere to human epithelial cells by Type IV pilus-independent mechanisms. Microbiology. 162:487-502.

Ogle J, Finck A, Aho E.  2015. Production of antimicrobial substances by nonpathogenic Neisseria species.  Proceedings of the National Experimental Biology Conference.  FASEB J. 29:S575.7.

Wörmann M, Horien C, Bennett J, Jolley K, Maiden M, Tang C, Aho E, Exley R.  2014.  Sequence, distribution and chromosomal context of class I and class II pilin genes of Neisseria meningitidis identified in whole genome sequences. BMC Genomics. 15:253.

Gebhart M, Hutchins E, Comella P, Aho E. 2014. Genes encoding meningococcal vaccine antigens are present in nonpathogenic bacteria found in the human microbiome. BIOS. 85:142-150. 

Ritter A, Compton K, Drees J, Newton C,  Strand K, Aho E.  2009. Transcriptional changes in Neisseria meningitidis in a cell-exclusion co-culture with a Neisseria lactamica biofilm. North Dakota Academy of Science Proceedings. 64:18.

Aho E, Urwin R, Batcheller A, Holmgren A, Havig K, Kulakoski A, Vomhof E, Longfors N, Erickson C, Anderson Z, Dawlaty J, Mueller J. 2005. Neisserial pilin genes display extensive interspecies diversity. FEMS Microbiology Letters. 249:327-334.

Batcheller A, Denault A,  AhoE.  2003. Identification of two tandemly arranged pilin-like genes in Neisseria elongata.  Proceedings of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

Touleman M, Aho E, Virji M.  2001.  Expression of pathogen-like Opa adhesins in commensal Neisseria: genetic and functional analysis.  Cellular Microbiology.  3:33-44.

Aho E, Keating A, McGillivray S.  1999.   A comparative analysis of pilin genes from pathogenic and nonpathogenic Neisseria species.  Microbial Pathogenesis.  28:81-88.

Aho E, Botten J, Hall R, Larsen M, Ness J.  1997.  Characterization of a class II pilin expression locus in Neisseria meningitidis:  evidence for increased diversity among pilin genes in pathogenic Neisseria species.  Infection and Immunity. 65:2613-2620.

Aho E, Kelly L.  1995.  Identification of a glutathione peroxidase homolog in Neisseria meningitidis.  DNA Sequence: The Journal of Sequencing and Mapping. 6:55-60.

Aho E, Bohling A, Jones P, Pipho D.  1994.  The molecular biology of neisserial pilin proteins. North Dakota Academy of Science Proceedings.  48:66.

Aho E, Dempsey J, Hobbs M, Klapper D, Cannon J.  1991.  Characterization of the opa (class 5) gene family of Neisseria meningitidis. Molecular Microbiology. 5:1429-1437.

Aho E.  1989.  Molecular biology of class 5 outer membrane proteins of Neisseria meningitidis.  Microbial Pathogenesis. 7:249-253.

Kawula T, Aho E, Barritt E, Klapper D, Cannon J.  1988.  Reversible phase variation of expression of Neisseria meningitidis class 5 outer membrane proteins and their relationship to gonococcal proteins II.  Infection and Immunity. 56:380-386.

Aho E, Cannon J.  1988.  Characterization of a silent pilin gene locus from Neisseria meningitidis strain FAM18.  Microbial Pathogenesis. 5:391-398.

Woods J, Aho E, Barritt D, Black J, Connell T, Kawula T, Spinola S, Cannon J.  1987.  The H8 antigen of pathogenic Neisseriae.  Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. 53:533-536.

Aho E, Murphy G, Cannon J.  1987.  Distribution of specific DNA sequences among pathogenic and commensal Neisseria species.  Infection and Immunity. 55:1009-1013. 


Dr. Ellen L. Aho

Professor, Biology; Academic Program Director, Clinical Laboratory Science ISC – 212