A Look into Host-Microbe Interaction: an Interview with Researcher Dr. Christian Jobin

This week, we’re excited to welcome Christian Jobin, PhD, to our blog. Dr. Jobin is a Gatorade Trust Professor of Medicine and Principal Investigator of the Jobin Research Lab at the University of Florida College of Medicine. He is currently the co-leader of the Cancer Therapeutic Host Response research program at the UF Health Cancer Center, and the associate editor of Microbiome.

Keep reading to learn more about Dr. Jobin’s research on host-microbe interaction:


uBiome: What is your primary field of research?

Dr. Christian Jobin: I work in the field of host-microbe interaction in the intestine, especially researching how disrupted interactions cause intestinal pathologies such as inflammatory bowel diseases and colorectal cancer.


UB: How did you first get involved in the microbiome field? How are you engaging in it now?

CJ: I have been working in the field of host-microbe interaction for close to 20 years, taking a specific view on how a host interacts with pathobiont (adherent invasive E. coli) and pathogenic (Campylobacter jejuni) bacteria.  Over the past 10 years, my laboratory has taken a more holistic approach by studying microbial community behavior during environmental changes (inflammation, medication, probiotics) using genomic tools and gnotobiotic technology.   


UB: What sparked your interest in studying host-microbe interactions?

CJ: I was interested in how the host mucosal immune system maintains a general state of low inflammation despite the presence of a large microbial community living in the gastrointestinal tract.


UB: What prompted you to take a more holistic approach to studying microbial community behavior?

CJ: In my early years of training, I was studying epithelial cell-derived signaling pathways such as the transcription factor NF-kB engaged by microbial products and single bacterial species. Later, it became evident that this reductionist approach was not addressing the bigger picture of microbial community impact on host homeostasis. This led to the study of host response to microbial community as a whole.


UB: How do disrupted interactions between host and microbes cause intestinal pathologies?

CJ: A balance exists between the microbiota and host sensing factors that help maintain health. Conditions (genetic defects, diet, antibiotics, medication) that either impair host sensing or microbial outputs (metabolites, structural components) will cause a breakdown of this balance, resulting in pathological activation or downregulation of pathways.


UB: In your opinion, what is the most exciting research question that the Jobin Research Lab is looking into right now?

CJ: We are particularly interested in how microbial-derived small molecules interact with the host to cause pathology, especially genotoxic response.  In addition, we are investigating how members of the microbiota interact with the host to modify deleterious activity of pathobionts or infectious organisms.


UB: Where do you hope microbiome work will be in 10 years?

CJ: Within the next 10 years, we should have a clearer understanding of how microbial communities (from different ecosystems) influence host health by identifying how microbial metabolites and small molecules engage the host to influence health. This research will lead to the generation of synthetic communities to restore health status for patients (e.g infectious diseases, IBD, metabolic syndrome, allergies, oncology). By that time, the microbiome field should be able to generate markers for prognostic, diagnostic, and treatment response.  A large collection of microbial-derived small molecules will be available as potential therapeutic tools.


UB: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of and why?

CJ: I am most proud of the interest our microbiome research has brought to the field of cancer research.  There is robust and sustained interest among cancer researchers in interrogating the role of microorganisms in cancer pathogenesis, and this field has attracted a large number of young investigators. This field of research is rapidly expanding and is expected to transform cancer research.


UB: Can you speak more specifically about the research you’ve done towards cancer treatment? Is there a particular cancer that you’ve been targeting, or a treatment that has shown promise?

CJ: We are looking at how the bacteriome influences the development of colorectal and pancreatic cancer through the release of small molecules such as colibactin, cytolethal distending toxin, and hydrogen sulfide that attack DNA integrity. Because of the immunomodulatory effect of the bacteriome, intestinal bacteria are now linked to patients’ response to immuno-therapeutic cancer treatment.  This emerging field of research suggests that compositional analysis of the intestinal bacteriome of cancer patients may provide predictive information about the efficacy of therapeutic response. Some of this information could be leverage for better treatment.