Ionut Albu

Ionut Albu
Mentor: Dr. Ann Progulske-Fox
College of Dentistry
"I began researching as a freshman particularly because of my father who has long been a patient. As a freshman I became aware of the research Dr. Ann Progulske-Fox was conducting on oral pathogens and their role in cardiovascular disease and this further stimulated my curiosity into my father's disease. Ever since, the study of the biological systems, especially the most complex of them all, the human body have kept my ever-inquiring mind at ease. In the future, I hope to become a medical doctor and continue researching."


Microbiology and Cell Science



Research Interests

  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Oral Pathogens

Academic Awards

  • President's List
  • Dean's List
  • HHMI Science for Life Research Award
  • University Scholars Program


  • Alpha Epsilon Delta
  • Student Health Service Corps
  • Health Occupations Students of America


  • Give Kids The World
  • Ronald McDonald House
  • Shands Volunteer - Neurosurgery

Hobbies and Interests

  • Music
  • Nature
  • Soccer
  • Raquetball

Research Description

Internalization of Streptococcus mutans via Caveolae Mediated Entry
Streptococcus mutans (Sm) has long been recognized as a major pathogen of dental caries and has more recently been recognized as an etiologic agent of diseases of the cardiovascular system such as infectious endocarditis (IE), hemorrhagic stroke, and likely atherosclerosis (ATH). The ability of a bacterium to attach to and invade endothelial tissues has been shown to be required for both the induction of infection and atherosclerotic plaque formation in animal models of ATH and IE, respectively. Moreover, the ability to invade endothelial cells has been shown to correlate with IE severity. We have reported that specific strains of Sm can invade human coronary artery endothelial cells (HCAEC) and that the HCAEC invasion phenotype correlates with the presence of a gene encoding a collagen binding protein, Cnm. The deletion of cnm renders Sm unable to invade HCAECs. It is estimated that approximately 10-20% of all Sm strains are cnm positive. Intracellular pathogens have evolved multiple pathways and mechanisms to enter, traffic, and survive within eukaryotic cells. The process of internalization, coincident or subsequent to adherence is critical to the resulting cell signaling and trafficking within host cells. Thus the mode of entry plays a major role in determining bacterial fate. There are no reports of the cellular events that govern Sm entry into cells. Our overall hypothesis is that strains of Sm expressing Cnm, such as OMZ175, are able to adhere to, enter, and persist in HCAECs and that the mechanism of entry is critical to the trafficking and survival of Sm intracellularly. Our working hypothesis to be tested is that invasive strains of Sm enter endothelial cells using caveolae-mediated entry.