USDA-ARS Postdoctoral Research Position Opportunity – Food Allergy

 BACKGROUND: The foods we eat impact the intestinal epithelium structure, mucosal immune cell function, and they are thought to contribute to peanut/tree nut allergies that affect millions of people. A post-doc position is available to join a group working to characterize and eliminate the causes of food allergy. The primary focus of the project will be to learn how intestinal cell structure and tight junctions affect food allergen sensitization. Intestinal epithelial cells create a selective barrier allowing nutrient uptake and defense of external threats. There will be opportunities to contribute to several other projects as well such as evaluating immunoglobulin E (IgE) binding to raw or processed nut allergens 

Several proteins interact with and stabilize cellular actin and microtubule networks, adherence junction stability, and the migration of immune cells sampling allergens in the intestinal lumen. The proposed research will identify changes in intestinal cell structure and protein function by characterizing tight junction proteins as a proxy for intestinal cell health and immune cell function. Early markers for food allergy development, instead of current reactive tests measuring IgE in symptomatic patients, could save millions of people from needless suffering and worry. 

APPROACH and GOAL: Tight junction protein level and localization will be evaluated in intestinal cell lines (i.e. HCT116 colon cells) prior to and after short and long term exposure to several reagents. Immunoblot, ELISA, and cellular immunofluorescence imaging will be used to assess protein level and localization. Immunoprecipitation and mass-spectrometry will identify post-translational modifications and interacting proteins. The goal is to identify alterations in tight junction protein level, localization, modification, or protein binding-partners that can be used as an indicator of intestinal cell architecture and cellular re-modeling that could contribute to food allergy sensitization. 

EXPECTED RESULTS: This research will characterize intestinal cell integrity, function, and health and evaluate the role of tight junction proteins. Publication of research results will be encouraged and supported. 

HOW TO APPLY: Applicants must have received his/her Ph.D. within 4 years of his/her entrance-on-duty date, or anticipate obtaining their Ph.D. within the year. The post-doctoral scientist will gain valuable molecular and cellular biology experience, career development, and professional networking opportunities. There is excellent institutional support for this research at the Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) located near the north end of City Park in New Orleans, LA. Please contact Dr. Chris Mattison ( if interested.