Michael D. L. Johnson, PhD

Associate Professor, Immunobiology
Member, BIO5 Institute
Member, Valley Fever Center for Excellence
Member, Asthma & Airway Disease Research Center
Director of Graduate Studies, Industrial Microbiology Track, Applied Bioscience Program
Director of the National Summer Undergraduate Research Project (NSURP)

Michael D. L. Johnson received his bachelors from Duke University. He obtained a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he studied the effects of calcium on bacterial motility and attachment under the mentorship of Matthew Redinbo. For his postdoctoral training, Michael Johnson went to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in order to work with Jason Rosch on metal homeostasis of Streptococcus pneumoniae and subsequently with Douglas Green on the mechanisms of LC3-associated phagocytosis. Michael Johnson joined the faculty of the University of Arizona in 2016.

Research Interests: 

Metals serve as vital nutrients to all biological systems. The overall goal of my laboratory is to investigate how bacteria maintain homeostasis within the metal milieu. This goal involves determining how metals are processed, the orchestrated response during metal sensing, and the role that the host plays in this process during infection. Understanding how bacteria interact with metals during infections will identify novel therapeutic strategies against bacterial infections. 

  • PhD: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • BA: Duke University, 2004
Honors and Awards
  • Keystone Symposia Fellow, 2016
  • Health Scholar, Aspen Ideas Festival – Spotlight Health, 2015
  • Cell Mentor 100 Inspiring Black Scientists in America 2020 (Cell Press)
  • 2020 NIGMS Director's Early Career Investigator Lecturer
  • 2021 Changemaker Award, Duke Alumni Engagement and Development
  • 2022 ASM William A. Hinton Award for Advancement of a Diverse Community of Microbiologists
  • Post-doctoral Fellow: St. Jude Children's Hospital, Memphis, TN

Recent Publications


Dao, T. H., A. Iverson, S. L. Neville, M. D. L. Johnson, C. A. McDevitt, and J. W. Rosch, "The role of CopA in Streptococcus pyogenes copper homeostasis and virulence.", J Inorg Biochem, vol. 240, pp. 112122, 2023 Mar. PMCID: PMC10161136  PMID: 36639322
Akbari, M. S., R. A. Keogh, J. N. Radin, Y. Sanchez-Rosario, M. D. L. Johnson, A. R. Horswill, T. E. Kehl-Fie, L. R. Burcham, and K. S. Doran, "The impact of nutritional immunity on Group B streptococcal pathogenesis during wound infection.", mBio, vol. 14, issue 4, pp. e0030423, 2023 Aug 31. PMCID: PMC10470527  PMID: 37358277
O'Brien, H., T. Davoodian, and M. D. L. Johnson, "The promise of copper ionophores as antimicrobials.", Curr Opin Microbiol, vol. 75, pp. 102355, 2023 Oct. PMCID: PMC10529258  PMID: 37406562


Menghani, S. V., M. P. Cutcliffe, Y. Sanchez-Rosario, C. Pok, A. Watson, M. J. Neubert, K. Ochoa, H-J. Joyce Wu, and M. D. L. Johnson, ",-Dimethyldithiocarbamate Elicits Pneumococcal Hypersensitivity to Copper and Macrophage-Mediated Clearance.", Infect Immun, pp. e0059721, 2022 Mar 21. PMID: 35311543
Li, Z. Nan, F. Liu, S. Jefferson, L. Horner, P. Carney, M. D. L. Johnson, J. P. King, E. T. Martin, R. K. Zimmerman, K. Wernli, et al., "Multiplex Detection of Antibody Landscapes to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)/Influenza/Common Human Coronaviruses Following Vaccination or Infection With SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza.", Clin Infect Dis, vol. 75, issue Suppl 2, pp. S271-S284, 2022 Oct 03. PMCID: PMC9214136  PMID: 35684961
Zhang, H., M. E. Rice, J. W. Alvin, D. Farrera-Gaffney, J. J. Galligan, M. D. L. Johnson, and D. A. Cusanovich, "Extensive evaluation of ATAC-seq protocols for native or formaldehyde-fixed nuclei.", BMC Genomics, vol. 23, issue 1, pp. 214, 2022 Mar 17. PMCID: PMC8928671  PMID: 35296236


Menghani, S. V., A. Rivera, M. Neubert, J. R. Hagerty, L. Lewis, J. N. Galgiani, E. R. Jolly, J. W. Alvin, and M. D. L. Johnson, "Demonstration of ,-Dimethyldithiocarbamate as a Copper-Dependent Antibiotic against Multiple Upper Respiratory Tract Pathogens.", Microbiol Spectr, vol. 9, issue 2, pp. e0077821, 2021 10 31. PMCID: PMC8557878  PMID: 34468162


O'Brien, H., J. W. Alvin, S. V. Menghani, K. Van Doorslaer, and M. D. L. Johnson, "Rules of expansion: an updated consensus operator site for the CopR/Y family of bacterial copper exporter system repressors", mSphere.00411-20 , vol. 1128, 05/2020.


Johnson, M. D. L., "mSphere of Influence: Hiring of Underrepresented Minority Assistant Professors in Medical School Basic Science Departments Has a Long Way To Go.", mSphere, vol. 4, issue 5, 2019 09 18. PMCID: PMC6751494  PMID: 31534000


Cunha, L. D., M. Yang, R. Carter, C. Guy, L. Harris, J. C. Crawford, G. Quarato, E. Boada-Romero, H. Kalkavan, M. D. L. Johnson, et al., "LC3-Associated Phagocytosis in Myeloid Cells Promotes Tumor Immune Tolerance.", Cell, vol. 175, issue 2, pp. 429-441.e16, 2018 10 04. PMCID: PMC6201245  PMID: 30245008