Cornelius Y Taabazuing, Ph.D.

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Presidential Assistant Professor
Department: Biochemistry and Biophysics

Contact information
904-905 Stellar Chance
422 Curie Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Office: 215-746-1193
B.S. (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology)
University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA, 2009.
Ph.D. (Biological Chemistry)
University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA, 2015.
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Description of Research Expertise

Research Interests:
The Taabazuing lab is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of cell death pathways that regulate immunity.

Pyroptosis, Apoptosis, Cell Death, Cytokines, Inflammasomes, Innate Immunity, Cancer Immunotherapy, Pathogen Defense

Research Details:
How cells adapt to extracellular and intracellular dangers such as pathogens or DNA damage is important for host survival. The response is usually mediated by large multi-protein signaling platforms known as supramolecular organizing centers (SMOCs) that either eliminate the damaged cells or in some instances promote pro-survival pathways. Dysregulation of SMOCs can lead to inflammation, autoimmune disorder, cancer, and even permit immune evasion by pathogens.

SMOCs serve as hubs for activation of proteases known as caspases, which then cleave several important substrates that regulate a myriad of biological pathways. The SMOCs my lab is interested in regulate cell death pathways known as pyroptosis and apoptosis. The major questions my research program is addressing include: 1) what are the specific insults or danger signals sensed by the PRRs that trigger their activation, 2) what is the molecular mechanism of SMOC assembly and caspase activation, and 3) what are the downstream substrates of caspases and the biological outputs that they regulate? We utilize a variety of techniques to address these questions, including genetics, biochemistry, microscopy, proteomics, and chemical biology. Answers to these key questions will help us develop strategies to modulate the immune system for therapeutic purposes.

Rotation Projects:
Pyroptosis is a type of cell death that is induced by intracellular pathogens or host derived danger signals. Typically, pattern recognition receptors sense the danger signal, bind to the adaptor protein ASC, and recruit the pro-caspase-1 zymogen into a multiprotein signaling platform known as the inflammasome. The oligomerization of pro-caspase-1 enables caspase-1 auto-proteolytic maturation, which then activates cytokines, including IL-1β and IL-18, as ­­­­well as the pore forming protein GSDMD that induces pyroptosis. Some inflammasomes activate caspase-1 without the ASC adaptor protein, resulting in pyroptosis without cytokine maturation. Our goal is to uncover the molecular mechanisms of inflammasome assembly leading to the diverse downstream signaling outputs. This knowledge will aid in developing therapeutics for auto-inflammatory disorders and cancer.

Apoptosis is a type of programmed cell death that is important for maintaining cellular homeostasis. Apoptosis can be activated by a number of diverse stimuli, including genotoxic stress. As DNA damage can lead to oncogenic transformations and many chemotherapeutic drugs induce DNA damage to cause apoptotic cell death in cancer cells, it underscores the need to understand the molecular regulation of apoptosis. We are particularly interested in understanding the regulation of genotoxic stress induced apoptosis. PIDD is a protein that senses genotoxic stress and forms distinct multiprotein signaling platforms like the inflammasome. Depending on the severity of the genotoxic stress, PIDD is thought to initiate a cell survival signaling cascade or a pro-death signaling cascade. Our goal is to elucidate the molecular mechanism of how PIDD senses DNA damage, becomes activated, and regulates cell fate decisions.

Lab Personnel:
The Taabazuing lab is comprised of undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs. We are looking to accept more trainees at all levels if space is available.

Selected Publications

P. E. Exconde*, C. M. Bourne*, M. Kulkarni, B. M. Discher, and C. Y. Taabazuing#: Inflammatory caspase substrate specificities. mBio. Jacob Yount (eds.). Invited Review, June 2024.

C. M. Bourne, C. Y. Taabazuing#: Harnessing pyroptosis for cancer immunotherapy. Cells 13(4): 346, February 2024 Notes: Invited Review.

17. D. C. Akuma*, K. A. Wodzanowski*, R. S. Wertman*, P. M. Exconde, V. R. Vázquez-Marrero, C. E. Odunze, D. Grubaugh, S. Shin#, C. Y. Taabazuing#, I. E. Brodsky#: Catalytic activity and autoprocessing of murine caspase-11 mediate noncanonical inflammasome assembly in response to cytosolic LPS. eLife 13: e83725, January 2024.

16. P. M. Exconde*, C. Hernandez-Chavez*, C. M. Bourne, R. M. Richards, M. B. Bray, J. L. Lopez, T. Srivastava, M. S. Egan, J. Zhang, S. Shin, B. M. Discher, and C. Y. Taabazuing#.: The tetrapeptide sequence of IL-18 and IL-1β regulates their recruitment and activation by inflammatory caspases. Cell Reports 42: 113581, December 2023.

C.B. Martin, C.Y. Taabazuing, and M.J. Knapp: Dynamic Domain Links Substrate Binding and Catalysis in the Factor-Inhibiting-HIF-1. Biochemistry 63: 2442-2449, August 2023.

2. A. Mays, A. Byars-Winston, A. Hinton Jr., A. G. Marshall, A. Kirabo, A. August, B. J. Marlin, B. Riggs, B. Tolbert, C. Wanjalla, C. Womack, C. S. Evans, C. Barnes, C. Starbird, C. Williams, C. Reynolds, C. Y. Taabazuing, C. E. Cameron, D. D. Murray, D. Applewhite, D. J. Morton, D. Lee, D. W. Williams, D. Lynch, D. Brady, E. Lynch, F. U. N. Rutaganira, G. M. Silva, H. Shuler, I. A. Saboor, J. Davis, K. Dzirasa, L. Hammonds-Odie, L. Reyes, M. T. Sweetwyne, M. R. McReynolds, M. D.L. Johnson, N. A. Smith, N. Pittman, O. A. Ajijola, Q. Smith, R. A.S. Robinson, S. C. Lewis, S. A. Murray, S. Black, S. E. Neal, S. Andrisse, S, Townsend, S. M. Damo, T. N. Griffith, W. M. Lambert, W. M. Clemons Jr. : Juneteenth in STEMM and barriers to equitable science. Cell 186(12): 2510 - 2517, June 2023.

E. Ransey, S. Brookens, H. K. Beasley, A. Marshall, B. J. Marlin, P. Rodriguez-Aliaga, C. A. Headley, C. Wanjalla, A. D. Vazquez, S. Murray, S. Damo, C. Y. Taabazuing#, A. Hinton Jr.#: A practical guide to graduate school interviewing for historically excluded individuals. American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology 324(6): H786 – H790, May 2023.

19. P. M. Exconde, C. Hernandez-Chavez, M. B. Bray, J. L. Lopez, T. Srivastava, M. S. Egan, J. Zhang, S. Shin, B. M. Discher, and C. Y. Taabazuing# : The tetrapeptide sequence of IL-1β regulates its recruitment and activation by inflammatory caspases. bioRxiv Page: p. 2023.02.16.528859, February 2023.

D. C. Akuma, D. Grubaugh, C. E. Odunze, S. Shin, C. Y. Taabazuing#, I. E. Brodsky#: Noncanonical inflammasome assembly requires caspase-11 catalytic activity and intra-molecular autoprocessing. bioRxiv Page: p. 2022.09.21.508824 September 2022.

J. C. Hsiao, A. R. Neugroschl, A. J. Chui, C. Y. Taabazuing, A. R. Griswold, Q. Wang, H. Huang, E. L. Orth, D. P. Ball, G. Hiotis, & D. A. Bachovchin. : A ubiquitin-independent proteasome pathway controls activation of the CARD8 inflammasome. Journal of Biological Chemistry 298(7): 102032, July 2022.

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Last updated: 05/17/2024
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