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 programs. 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.


    Figure 1: 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.


    Figure 2: 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 virulence”

    The Krukonis Lab has two grants from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry entitled:

    Explorations in Bacterial Pathogenesis” 

    “Investigation of the potential for development of antibiotic resistance by oral bacteria during a short-term prophylactic exposure”

    In addition, the Krukonis lab participates in a third grant entitled:             

    “Isolation of bacteriophages that target and kill dental pathogens”


    Lab Members

    2017-2018 Lab Members

    Dr. Sarah Plecha, Postdoctoral Fellow
    Jamal Alhabeil, Laboratory Technician and Lab Coordinator

    Dental Students:

    Ayah Koleilat - DS4
    Malaka Saleh - DS4
    Jonathon Zora - DS4
    Scott Knureck - DS2
    Lucas Mathes - DS2
    Aanchal Mohan - DS2

    Detroit Mercy Undergraduates:

    Nour El Yaman - BUILD Scholar
    Lizbeth Garcia-Leon - BUILD Scholar
    Amber Abram - BUILD Scholar
    Sean Ojha - Detroit Mercy Undergraduate

    Past Lab Members:

    Dr. Joshua Thomson former Postdoctoral Fellow – currently Assistant Professor: University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry

    Dr. Emily French former laboratory technician – currently graduated with 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 Internal Medicine resident at the Yale University School of Medicine

    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 STEM Education Specialist at the University of Hawaii

    Dr. Thomas Goss former laboratory technician – currently a senior laboratory technician at the University of Michigan Medical School 

    Malte Kronshage M.S. former Masters student from Germany

    Former Dental Students:

    Zachary Mayer D.D.S.
    Keeton Colville D.D.S.
    Mohamed El-Shaer D.D.S.
    Elizabeth Doman D.D.S.
    Sumita Sam D.D.S.
    Lisa Park D.D.S.
    Shameel Khan D.D.S.
    Michelle Szewczyk 

    Former Hygiene students:

    Hina Qadir
    Teniece Roberts
    Megan Patlow
    Terlicia Winston
    Alexandra Willaeys
    Taylor Davidson
    Meghan Smerecki
    Halee Stratton
    Erica Lewandowski
    Sarah Charland
    Alyson Fryz
    Sara Trombly
    Heather VanOast 
    Rajpreet Grover
    Shamaila Mirza
    Navneet Somal

    Former Dental Residents:

    Krupa Patel D.D.S.