Faculty : Departmental- Primary

Gregory E. Conner, Ph.D.

This research program focuses on the cell biology of the airway mucosa. The airway epithelium represents one of the most important interfaces between an animal and its environment. Approximately 15,000-20,000 liters of air pass through the airways daily during normal breathing and thus exposing the lungs to bacteria, viruses, spores and other particulates. This epithelium must provide a sophisticated host defense against airborne material and unsuccessful or inappropriate response of the airway mucosa is detrimental to the airway and underlying tissues. Our program in airway cell biology studies the function of the epithelial cells and the components of airway secretions that function in respiratory host defense and that when dysfunctional may play a role in respiratory diseases.


We use human bronchial epithelial cells growing in culture at an air-liquid interface as a model system. Cells are harvested from human lungs obtained from the Life Alliance Organ Recovery Organization with local IRB approval. After dissection, airway mucosa is digested with proteases and cells are plated in normal submerged culture for expansion. For experiments, cells are plated on transwells consisting of a filter support that allows manipulation of separate apical and basolateral compartments. After growth to confluency, media is removed from the apical surface and the culture differentiates into a pseudostratified columnar epithelial layer with ciliated cells and goblet cells readily apparent. These cultures are then used to study synthesis and secretion of mucus components, transepithelial transport, ciliary beat frequency and other features important for airway epithelia function. The beating of cilia on the surface of the cultures moves secreted mucus and trapped debris in a circular pattern reflecting the geometry of the culture system. These circular movements resemble “hurricanes” and a video can be seen here.

The role of reactive oxygen species is a focus of the lab. In particular we study the role of peroxidase and NADPH oxidase in airway host defense and cell signaling.

Biographical Information

BA Molecular Biology 1972 Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN.

Ph.D. Biochemistry 1978 University of Florida Gainesville, FL.

Post-Doctoral Cell Biology 1978-1981 The Rockefeller University New York, NY.

Select Publications

  • Manzanares, D., M. Srinivasan, S. T. Salathe, P. Ivonnet, N. Baumlin, J. S. Dennis, G. E. Conner and M. Salathe. IFN-gamma-mediated reduction of large-conductance, Ca2+-activated, voltage-dependent K+ (BK) channel activity in airway epithelial cells leads to mucociliary dysfunction. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol 306: L453-462 (2014)
  • Conner, G. E., P. Ivonnet, M. Gelin, P. Whitney and M. Salathe. H2O2 stimulates cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator through an autocrine prostaglandin pathway, using multidrug-resistant protein-4. Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol 49: 672-679 (2013)
  • Manzanares, D., C. Gonzalez, P. Ivonnet, R. S. Chen, M. Valencia-Gattas, G. E. Conner, H. P. Larsson and M. Salathe. Functional Apical Large Conductance, Ca2+-activated, and Voltage-dependent K+ Channels Are Required for Maintenance of Airway Surface Liquid Volume. J Biol Chem 286: 19830-19839 (2011)
  • Gattas, M. V., R. Forteza, M. A. Fragoso, N. Fregien, P. Salas, M. Salathe and G. E. Conner. Oxidative epithelial host defense is regulated by infectious and inflammatory stimuli. Free Radic Biol Med 47: 1450-1458 (2009)
  • Ransford, G. A., N. Fregien, F. Qiu, G. Dahl, G. E. Conner and M. Salathe. Pannexin 1 contributes to ATP release in airway epithelia. Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol 41: 525-534 (2009)
  • Borthwick, L. A., J. McGaw, G. Conner, C. J. Taylor, V. Gerke, A. Mehta, L. Robson and R. Muimo. The formation of the cAMP/protein kinase A-dependent annexin 2-S100A10 complex with cystic fibrosis conductance regulator protein (CFTR) regulates CFTR channel function. Mol Biol Cell 18: 3388-3397 (2007)
  • Conner, G. E., C. Wijkstrom-Frei, S. H. Randell, V. E. Fernandez and M. Salathe. The lactoperoxidase system links anion transport to host defense in cystic fibrosis. FEBS letters 581: 271-278 (2007)
  • Schmid, A., Z. Sutto, M. C. Nlend, G. Horvath, N. Schmid, J. Buck, L. R. Levin, G. E. Conner, N. Fregien and M. Salathe. Soluble adenylyl cyclase is localized to cilia and contributes to ciliary beat frequency regulation via production of cAMP. J Gen Physiol 130: 99-109 (2007)
  • Schmid, A., G. Bai, N. Schmid, M. Zaccolo, L. E. Ostrowski, G. E. Conner, N. Fregien and M. Salathe. Real-time analysis of cAMP-mediated regulation of ciliary motility in single primary human airway epithelial cells. J Cell Sci 119: 4176-4186 (2006)
  • Forteza, R., M. Salathe, F. Miot, R. Forteza and G. E. Conner. Regulated hydrogen peroxide production by Duox in human airway epithelial cells. Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol 32: 462-469 (2005)

View published research articles by Dr. Conner in the National Library of Medicine.