Eric Krukonis

Eric  Krukonis

Associate Professor
Assistant Director of Research

Eric Krukonis
Contact Info:
Campus: Corktown Campus
Building: School of Dentistry
Room: DC 444
Phone: 313-494-6851
Eric Krukonis
Division of Integrated Biomedical Sciences


  • Ph.D., Tufts University


Prof. Krukonis teaches oral microbiology and infection control to Dental Hygiene students, oral microbiology, infection control, and infectious diseases to Dental students and current topics in microbiology to Residents in Periodontology, Endodontics and Orthodontics.

Current areas of dental research include: the etiology of root caries in geriatric populations, infection control in the dental clinical, and characterizing antimicrobial properties of essential oil products.

In addition, the Krukonis laboratory studies the molecular mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis by the medical pathogens Vibrio cholera (the causative agent of cholera) and Yersinia pestis (the causative agent of plague). Both are model organisms for the study of infectious disease. Some recent publications in these areas are listed below.

Dr. Krukonis got his BA in Biology from Rice University in 1990 and his PhD in Molecular Biology and Microbiology from Tufts University in 1998. He joined the faculty of Detroit Mercy Dental in 2013.

Research Activity

Current areas of dental research include: the etiology of root caries in geriatric populations, infection control in the dental clinical, and characterizing antimicrobial properties of essential oil products.

In addition, the Krukonis laboratory studies the molecular mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis by the medical pathogens Vibrio cholera (the causative agent of cholera) and Yersinia pestis (the causative agent of plague). Both are model organisms for the study of infectious disease.

Complete list to published works: Prof. Eric Krukonis


    Research Projects

    1.  Understanding the Microbiology of Root Caries in Geriatric Patients

    As people age their gums often recede revealing root surfaces to bacterial colonization and caries development. In the past, a few acid-generating bacteria have been implicated in the etiology of root caries, but with modern molecular techniques the collection of bacteria shown to be associated with root caries is expanding. Using techniques of quantitative PCR and microbiome analysis on dental plaque from diseased and health root surfaces we are defining those bacteria that are more prevalent on carious root surfaces and investigating their potential contributions to root caries. Our long-term goal is to develop therapies that target root caries-causing bacteria for elimination from dental plaque.

    2) Defining Pathogenic Mechanisms of the Human Pathogen Yersinia pestis, the Causative Agent of Plague

    Plague is one of the most devastating diseases in human history and still exists in a number of regions in the world today. While only a few cases of plague are documented each year in the U.S., it is of concern as a potential bioterrorism threat. Our laboratory performs research to understand the mechanisms of pathogenesis of Y. pestis in hopes of finding vulnerabilities to be exploited in the design of anti-plague therapeutics. We focus on defining the mechanism of toxin delivery from Y. pestis to human cells, a step required for disease as well as understanding how Y. pestis survives in human blood during plague infection despite our normal antimicrobial killing capacity.


    The Krukonis Laboratory uses Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague, as a model organism to study how bacterial pathogens delivery cytotoxins to host cells resulting in disruption of normal cellular functions including cytoskeletal arrangements and immune pathways. Y. pestis is shown in association with the human epithelial cell line HEp-2, where the cytoskeleton has collapsed and cells are rounded indicating cytotoxicity caused by injection of several cytotoxic proteins known as Yops.

    3) Regulation of Virulence Gene Expression in Vibrio cholerae, the Causative Agent of Cholera

    The disease cholera is a rapidly progressing diarrheal disease that causes >100,000 infections and thousands of deaths each year (World Health Organization data). Bacterial pathogens express different genes according to their environment so they tailor protein expression to the conditions in which they are growing. V. cholerae, senses when it is ingested by a human host by a change in temperature and other environmental signals to trigger a program of gene expression that allows for efficient colonization of the human host and expression of the key virulence factor, cholera toxin. Expression of cholera toxin results in up to 20 liters of diarrheal excretion per day in patients suffering from cholera leading to a life-threating dehydration and allowing rapid dissemination of V. cholerae back into the environment to infect additional hosts. Our laboratory studies the molecules utilized for initiating the gene expression program required to establish cholera toxin expression as well as proteins required for host colonization. Our hope is to identify chemical compounds that can inhibit this process and could be used as therapeutics during cholera outbreaks.


    The Krukonis Laboratory investigates the mechanisms of virulence gene regulation, including regulation of cholerae toxin production in the diarrheal pathogen Vibrio cholerae by two membrane–localized transcription factors ToxR and TcpP. ToxR and TcpP activate the toxT promoter. The ToxT protein then directly activates cholera toxin and other genes required for colonization and virulence.


    Grants & Funding

    The Krukonis lab has a grant from NIH Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID)

    NIH R21 AI 133570 entitled:

    “Ail-mediated serum resistance in Yersinia pestis and its contribution to plague




    The Krukonis Lab has a grant from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry entitled:

    Explorations in Bacterial Pathogenesis”

    In addition, the Krukonis lab participates in anotherDMSOD grant entitled:   

    “Isolation of bacteriophages that target and kill dental pathogens”




    Some key publications from our laboratory are:


    Krukonis, E.S. and Thomson, J.J. 2020 Complement Evasion Mechanisms of the

    Systemic Pathogens Yersiniae and Salmonellae FEBS J. 594 (16) pp.2598-2620.

            Invited Review


    Morgan, S.J., French, E.L., Plecha, S.C., and Krukonis, E.S. 2019 The wing of the ToxR

    winged helix-turn-helix domain is required for DNA binding and activation of toxT

    and ompU PLoS One 14(9) e0221936


    Thomson, J.J., Plecha S.C. and Krukonis E.S. 2019 Ail provides multiple mechanisms of

    serum resistance to Yersinia pestis Mol Microbiol Vol 111 (1) pp. 82-95



    Davidson, T., Lewandowski, E., Smerecki, M., Stratton, H., Alhabeil, J., Wheater, M.,

    Shepherd, K. and Krukonis, E.S. 2017 Taking Your Work Home With You: Potential

    Risks of Contaminated Clothing and Hair in the Dental Clinic and Attitudes about Infection Control Can J Inf Cntl Vol 32 (3) pp. 137-142.


    Tsang, T. M., Wiese, J. S., Alhabeil, J. A., Usselman, L. D., Thomson, J. J., Matti, R.,

          Kronshage, M., Maricic, N., Williams, S., Sleiman, N. H., Felek, S. and Krukonis, E.

    1. 2017. Defining the Ail Ligand-Binding Surface: Hydrophobic Residues in Two

          Extracellular Loops Mediate Cell and Extracellular Matrix Binding To Facilitate Yop

          Delivery. Infect Immun. Vol. 85 (4) e01047-15.


    Morgan, S.J., French, E.L., Thomson, J.J., Seaborn C.P., Shively, C.A. and Krukonis,

    E.S. 2015. Formation of an intramolecular periplasmic disulfide bond in TcpP protects TcpP and TcpH from degradation in Vibrio cholerae. J. Bact. Vol. 198(3) pp. 498-509.


    Goss, T.J, Morgan, S.J., French, E.L. and Krukonis, E.S. 2013. ToxR recognizes a direct

    repeat element in the toxT, ompU, ompT and ctxA promoters of Vibrio cholerae to

    regulate transcription. Infect. Immun. Vol. 81(3) pp. 884-895.


    Morgan, S.J., Felek, S., Gadwal, S., Koropatkin, N.M., Perry, W.J., Bryson, A.B., and

    Krukonis, E.S. 2011. The two faces of ToxR: activator of ompU, co-regulator of

    toxT in Vibrio cholerae, Mol. Micro. Vol. 81 (1) pp. 113-128.


    Tsang, T. M., Felek, S. and Krukonis, E. S. 2010. Ail binding to fibronectin facilitates

            Yersinia pestis binding to host cells and Yop delivery. Infect. Immun. Vol. 78 (8)



    Goss, T. J., Seaborn, C. P., Gray, M. D. and Krukonis, E. S. 2010. Identification of the

            TcpP-binding site in the toxT promoter of Vibrio cholerae and the role of ToxR in

            TcpP-mediated activation. Infect. Immun. Vol. 78 (10) pp. 4122-4133.


    Felek, S., Tsang, T. M.  and Krukonis, E. S. 2010. Three Yersinia pestis adhesins

            facilitate Yop delivery to eukaryotic cells and contribute to plague virulence. Infect.

            Immun. Vol. 78 (10) pp. 4134-4150.


    Felek, S. and Krukonis, E.S. 2009. The Yersinia pestis Ail protein mediates binding

            and Yop delivery to host cells required for plague virulence. Infect. Immun., Vol.

            77 (2) pp.825-836.     Cover article


    A Complete List of Published Works Can be Found in MyBibliography:




    Lab Members

    Current Lab Members:

    Dr. Sarah Plecha

    Postdoctoral Fellow


    Karmen Rucker

    Laboratory Technician and Lab Coordinator


    Laura Young

    Laboratory Technician


    Dental Students:

    Lucas Mathes – DS4

    Michele Bhagwagar – DS3

    Jay Wayntraub – DS3

    Christen Thompson – DS3

    Eilkay Samadi – DS3

    William Vo – DS3

    Nik Tasevski – DS3

    Colleen O’Brien – DS3


    Periodontics Residents:

    Dr. Jonathan Zora


    Detroit Mercy Undergraduates:

    Amber Abram - BUILD Scholar

    Sean Ojha - Detroit Mercy Undergraduate


    Past Lab Members:


    Jamal Alhabeil, former Laboratory Technician and Lab Coordinator; currently teaching English Language in Nagahama, Japan for the Shiga Board of Education



    Dr. Joshua Thomson

    former Postdoctoral Fellow – currently Assistant Professor: University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry


    Dr. Emily French

    former laboratory technician – currently in the La Crosse-Mayo Family Medicine Residency Program in La Crosse, WI; MD from Central Michigan University


    Jeffrey Wiese

    former laboratory technician – currently a Senior Medical writer at MMS Holdings


    Dr. Suleyman Felek

    former Postdoctoral Fellow – currently practicing Internal Medicine at Richmond University Medical Center, Waterbury Hospital and Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital 


    Dr. Sarah Morgan

    former PhD student – currently a Senior Postdoctoral fellow/lab manager at University of Washington in the laboratory of Dr. Pradeep Singh


    Dr. Tiffany Tsang

    former PhD student – currently a science contractor between the US government and private industry


    Dr. Thomas Goss

    former laboratory technician – currently a senior laboratory technician at the University of Michigan Medical School


    Malte Kronshage MS

    former Masters student from Germany


    Former University of Detroit Mercy Undergraduates

    Christina Jones - former BUILD Scholar: currently a DDS/PhD candidate at the University

    of Michigan School of Dentistry, in the laboratory of Dr. Isabelle Lombaert

    Nour El Yaman – former BUILD Scholar

    Lizbeth Garcia-Leon – former BUILD Scholar



    Former Dental Students:

    Zachary Mayer DDS

    Keeton Colville DDS

    Mohamed El-Shaer DDS

    Elizabeth Doman DDS

    Sumita Sam DDS

    Lisa Park DDS

    Shameel Khan DDS

    Michelle Szewczyk DDS

    Ayah Koleilat DDS

    Malaka Saleh DDS

    Jonathon Zora DDS

    Chelseas Watkins DDS



    Former Hygiene students:

    Hina Qadir RDH

    Teniece Roberts RDH

    Megan Patlow RDH

    Terlicia Winston RDH

    Alexandra Willaeys RDH

    Taylor Davidson RDH

    Meghan Smerecki RDH

    Halee Stratton RDH

    Erica Lewandowski RDH

    Sarah Charland RDH

    Alyson Fryz RDH

    Sara Trombly RDH

    Heather VanOast RDH

    Rajpreet Grover RDH

    Shamaila Mirza RDH

    Navneet Somal RDH

    Hannah Howard RDH

    Vrushi Patel RDH

    Mirna Yousif RDH

    Amanda Totin RDH



    Former Dental Residents:

    Krupa Patel DDS