Ronald B. Corley, PhD

Chair, Department of Microbiology

Director, National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories


BS, Duke University
PhD, Duke University

Research Interests

Dr. Corley’s research focuses on the relationship between innate and adaptive immunity, and how components of the two discrete systems interact to generate long-lasting protective immune responses. One area of focus has been on the role of IgM antibodies as efficient bridges of innate and adaptive immunity. IgM antibodies serve to concentrate antigens into secondary lymphoid organs, accelerating the production of protective immune responses along with affinity matured antibodies. IgM also contributes to preventing pathogens from initially localizing into vital organs. The innate functions of IgM can be attributed, at least in part, to its ability to concentrate immune complexes in the foci of the spleen, where innate B cells in the marginal zones traffic the complexes to follicular dendritic cells, stromal elements that promote efficient germinal center formation. These functions require native organization around the marginal sinuses for efficient adjuvant effects of IgM.

The laboratory also focuses on the immune consequences of infection with highly pathogenic hemorrhagic fever viruses, including filoviruses. Patients infected with these viruses often fail to make adaptive immune responses and succumb to infection. While this is often attributed to dysfunctional innate immune responses, the nature of the defects in immune responses to these viruses is poorly understood. Studies focus on the very early immune responses to these viruses, in order to map how they affect the ability of infected hosts to initiate adaptive immune responses, and on identifying the components of infection that lead to abnormal cytokine responses that characterize infection with these viruses.