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Dr. Grace Spatafora



Inducted 2009



Professor of Biology, Middlebury College

276 Bicentennial Way, MBH354

Middlebury, Vermont 05753

Research Interests

Research in my laboratory addresses oral health disparities in the United States and around the world.   Streptococcus mutans is the principal causative agent of dental caries in humans, an infectious disease that has a significant impact on oral health, especially among the socio-economically disadvantaged.  A major research objective in the Spatafora laboratory centers on identifying genes in S. mutans that contribute to the cavities-forming process, with a focus on the SloR and Fur metalloregulatory gene products.  Specifically, we use molecular- genetic approaches to investigate the mechanisms that regulate SloR- and/or Fur-mediated adherence of S. mutans  to the dentition, and subsequent acid production that demineralizes tooth enamel.  The long term goal is to identify specific gene products in S. mutans that may be targeted for the development of a therapeutic aimed at alleviating and/or preventing dental caries.

Professional Honors

Professional Experience

2018-present: President, Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering

2018.  Perkins Award for Excellence in Teaching, Middlebury College, VT.

2015-present:  Chair/Organizer, Annual Mini-Symposia for Young Investigators (in Association with the General meeting of the International/American Association for Dental Research) 

2016: Chair/Coordinator, 8th International Conference on Streptococcal Genetics, Washington, D.C.

2014-present: Editorial Board, Molecular Oral Microbiology

2014: Council for Undergraduate Research, Biology Mentor Award: Honorable Mention

2013-2015: President, Microbiology/Immunology Subgroup, International Association for Dental Research

2013: Gladstone Award Honoring Excellence in Teaching (nominee)

2010-2017: Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering, Education Outreach Coordinator and STEM

2009–present: Distinguished Professor, Irene Heinz and John LaPorte Given Professor in the Premedical Sciences (Endowed Chair)

2007-2011: American Society for Microbiology Carski Award nominee

2002-2006: Oral, Dental and Craniofacial Sciences (ODCS), Center for Scientific Review, NIH






2018 -present: Middlebury College Appeals Council

2018-present: Middlebury College Institutional Review Board (IRB)

2012-2014: Chair, Department of Biology, Middlebury College, VT 

2007-2010: Promotions Committee, Middlebury College, VT

2004-2007: Chair, Department of Biology, Middlebury College, VT.

2009 - present: Distinguished Professor, Irene Heinz and John LaPorte Given Professor in the Premedical Sciences (Endowed Chair)

2004-present: Professor, Department of Biology, Middlebury College, VT.

1999-2004: Associate Professor (w/ tenure), Department of Biology, Middlebury College, VT.

1995-1999: Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Middlebury College, VT.

1992-1995: Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Middlebury College, VT.

1991-1992: NRSA Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL.

1988-1991: NRSA Post Doctoral Fellow, Washington University, Dept. of Biology, St. Louis, MO.







Selected Publications

Active Grantsmanship

1.   O’Brien, J, Pastora, A., Stoner, A., and Spatafora, G. 2020. The S. mutans mntE gene encodes a manganese efflux transporter. Mol. Oral Microbiol.

doi: 10.1111/omi.12286.

2. Kajfasz, J.K., C. Katrak, T. Gaguly, J. Vargas, L.Wright, Z.T. Peters, G. Spatafora, J. Abranches, and J.A. Lemos. 2019. Manganese Uptake, Mediated by SloABC and MntH, is Essential for the Fitness of Streptococcus mutans. mSphere.  doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00764-19. 

3.  Monette, P., R. Brach*, A. Cowan*, R. Winters*, J. Weisman, F. Seybert, K. Goguen*, J. Chen, A. Glasfeld, and G. Spatafora. 2018. Autoregulation of the Streptococcus mutans SloR metalloregulator is constitutive and driven by an independent promoter. J. Bacteriol. doi:10.1128/JB.00214-18. 

4.  Wenderska, I.B., A. Latos, B. Pruitt, S. Palmer, G. Spatafora, D.B. Senadheera, and D.G. Cvitkovitch. 2017.  Transcriptional Profiling of the Oral Pathogen Streptococcus mutans in Response to Competence Signaling Peptide XIP.  mSystems.

doi: 10.1128/mSystems.00102-16.  

5.  Crepps, S.C., E. Fields, D. Galan, J. Corbett, E. Von Hasseln, and G. Spatafora. 2016. The SloR Metalloregulator is Involved in the Streptococcus mutans Oxidative Stress Response. Mol. Oral Microbiol. doi:10.1111/omi.12147.

6.  Spatafora, G., J. Corbett, L. Cornacchione, W. Daly, D. Galan-Donlo, M. Wysota, P. Tivnan, J. Collins, D. Nye, T. Levitz, W. Breyer, and A. Glasfeld. 2015. Interactions of the Metalloregulatory Protein SloR from Streptococcus mutans with its Metal Ion Effectors and DNA Binding Site. J. Bacteriol. 197:3601-3615. 

7.  Downey, J.S., L. Mashburn-Warren, E.A. Ayala, D.B. Senadheera, W.K. Hendrickson, L.W. McCall, J. Godfrey-Sweet, D.G. Cvitkovitch, G. Spatafora and S.D. Goodman. 2014. In vitro manganese-dependent crosstalk between Streptococcus mutans VicK and GcrR: implications for overlapping stress response pathways. PLoSOne 23;9(12):e115975.

NOTE: G. Spatafora and S. Goodman are co-corresponding authors on this manuscript.


8. Merchant, A.T., and G. Spatafora.  2014.  A role for the DtxR family of metalloregulators in gram positive pathogenesis. Mol. Oral Microbiol. 29:1-10. Invited Review (F1000Prime recommended).

9. Haswell, J.R., B.W. Pruitt, L.P. Cornacchione, C.L. Coe, E.G. Smith and G. Spatafora. 2013. Characterization of the functioinal domains of the SloR metalloregulatory protein in Streptococcus mutans.  J. Bacteriol. 195:126-134

10. Smith, E.G. and G. Spatafora. 2011. Gene Regulation in Streptococcus mutans: Complex Control in a Complex Environment. J. Dent. Res. (featured as a Critical             Review in Oral Biology and Medicine) 91(2):133-141.

11. O’Rourke, K.P., J.D. Shaw, M.W. Pesesky, B.T. Cook. S.M. Roberts, J. P. Bond and G. Spatafora. 2010. Genome-wide characterization of the SloR metalloregulome in Streptococcus mutans.  J. Bacteriol. 192:1433-1443.

12. Levine, R.B., M.S. Constanza-Robinson and G. Spatafora. 2010.  Neochloris oleoabundans grown on anaerobically digested dairy manure for concomitant nutrient removal and biodiesel feedstock production. Biomass and Bioenergy, 35:40-49

13. Dunning, D.W., L.W. McCall, W.F. Powell, W. T. Arscott, E. M. McConocha, C.J. McClurg, S. D. Goodman, and G. Spatafora. 2008.  SloR modulatioin of the Streptococcus mutans acid tolerance response involves the GcrR response regulator as an essential intermediary. Microbiology, 154:1132-43.

14.  Senadheera, M.D., A.E. Lee, D.C. Hung, G. Spatafora, S.D. Goodman, and D.G. Cvitkovitch. 2007.  Streptococcus mutans vicX gene product modulates gtfB/C expression, biofilm formation, genetic competence, and oxidative stress tolerance.  J. Bacteriol. doi: 10.1128/JB.01161-06. 

15.  Rolerson, E, A. Swick, L. Newlon, C. Palmer, Y. Pan, B. Keeshan, and G. Spatafora. 2006. The SloR/Dlg metalloregulator modulates Streptococcus mutans virulence gene expression. J. Bacteriol. 188:5033-5044.

16.  Senahdeera, M.D., G. Guggenheim, G. Spatafora, Y.C. Huang, J. Choi, D.C. Hung, J.S. Treglown, S.D. Goodman, R.P. Ellen, and D.G. Cvitkovitch. 2005.  A VicRK signal transduction system in Streptococcus mutans affects gtfBCD, gbpB, and ftf expression, biofilm formation, and genetic competence development.  J. Bacteriol. doi: 10.1128/JB.187.12.4064-4076.

17.  Idone, V., S. Brendtro, R. Gillespie, S. Kocaj, E. Peterson, M. Rendi, W. Warren, S. Michalek, K. Krastel, D. Cvitkovitch, and G. Spatafora.  2003.  Effect of an orphan response regulator on Streptococcus mutans sucrose-dependent adherence and cariogenesis.  Infect. Immun.  doi:10.1128/iai.71.8.4351-4360.  

18.  Spatafora, G., N. Van Hoeven, K. Wagner, and P. Fives-Taylor. 2002.  Evidence that ORF3 at the Streptococcus parasanguis fimA locus encodes a thiol-specific antioxidant.  Microbiology.   doi: 10.1099/00221287-148-3-755.

19.  Spatafora, G. M. Moore, S. Landgren, E. Stonehouse, S. Michalek.  2001. Expression of Streptococcus mutans fimA is iron-responsive and regulated by a DtxR homologue.  Microbiology.  doi: 10.1099/00221287-147-6-1599.

20.  Spatafora, G., M. Sheets, R. June, D. Luyimbazi, K. Howard, R. Hulbert, D. Barnard, M. El Janne, M.C. Hudson.  1999. Regulated expression of the Streptococcus mutans dlt genes correlates with intracellular polysaccharide accumulation.   J. Bacteriol.  181(8): 2363-72.

21.  Spatafora, G., K. Rohrer, D. Barnard, S. Michalek.  1995.  A Streptococcus mutans mutant that synthesizes elevated levels of intracellular polysaccharide is hypercariogenic in vivoInfect. Immun. 63(7):2556-2563.

22.  Fenno, J.C., A. Shaikh, G. Spatafora and P. Fives-Taylor.  1995.  The fimA locus of Streptococcus parasanguis encodes an ATP-binding membrane transport system.  Mol. Microbiol.  doi: 10.1111.j.1365-2958.1995.tb02355.x.

NIH/NIDCR 1R01DE014711 1R01 DE014711                                     August 1, 2017- July 31, 2022
Investigating SloR virulence gene metalloregulation in the oral pathogen,  Streptococcus mutans. The major goal of this research project is to reveal the molecular and biochemical details of the SloR-SRE binding interaction so that it may be targeted for the development of an anti-caries therapeutic. 
Funded: $2.1 million

Professional Affiliations

Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering

American Society for Microbiology

International Association for Dental Research

American Association for Dental Research

Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society

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