Robert M.Q. Shanks, PhD

  • Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
  • Associate Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
  • The Campbell Laboratory for Infectious Eye Diseases
  • University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

A Conversation With Dr. Shanks


Academic Affiliation

Associate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Basic Science Director, Campbell Laboratory of Ophthalmic Microbiology

Lab Personnel

Robert Shanks

Kimberly Brothers – postdoctoral associate

Jake Callaghan-research tecnician

Nicholas Stella – research associate

Education & Training

  • Alfred University, BA, Biology
  • Tufts Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences, PhD, Molecular Microbiology
  • Dartmouth Medical School, Post-doctoral fellowship, Microbiology and Immunology

Representative Publications

Shanks RM, Stella NA, Kalivoda EJ, Doe MR, O'Dee DM, Lathrop KL, Guo FL, Nau GJ. A Serratia marcescens OxyR homolog mediates surface attachment and biofilm formation. J Bacteriol 2007 Oct;189(20):7262-72. PMC2168423

Kalivoda EJ, Stella NA, O'Dee DM, Nau GJ, Shanks RM. The cyclic AMP-dependent catabolite repression system of Serratia marcescens mediates biofilm formation through regulation of type 1 fimbriae. Appl Environ Microbiol 2008 Jun;74(11):3461-70. PMC2423026

Medina AA, Shanks RM, Kadouri DE. Development of a novel system for isolating genes involved in predator-prey interactions using host independent derivatives of Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus 109J. BMC Microbiol 2008;8:33. PMC2277423 

Shanks RM, Meehl MA, Brothers KM, Martinez RM, Donegan NP, Graber ML, Cheung AL, O'Toole GA. Genetic evidence for an alternative citrate-dependent biofilm formation pathway in Staphylococcus aureus that is dependent on fibronectin binding proteins and the GraRS two-component regulatory system. Infect Immun 2008 Jun;76(6):2469-77. PMC2423107

Stella NA, Kalivoda EJ, O'Dee DM, Nau GJ, Shanks RM. Catabolite repression control of flagellum production by Serratia marcescens. Res Microbiol 2008 Sep-Oct;159(7-8):562-8. PMC2606049

Thompson PP, Kowalski RP, Shanks RM, Gordon YJ. Validation of real-time PCR for laboratory diagnosis of Acanthamoeba keratitis. J Clin Microbiol 2008 Oct;46(10):3232-6. PMC2566128

Gordon YJ, Romanowski EG, Shanks RM, Yates KA, Hinsley H, Pereira HA. CAP37-derived antimicrobial peptides have in vitro antiviral activity against adenovirus and herpes simplex virus type 1. Curr Eye Res 2009 Mar;34(3):241-9. PMC2749063

Shanks RM, Kadouri DE, MacEachran DP, O'Toole GA. New yeast recombineering tools for bacteria. Plasmid 2009 Sep;62(2):88-97. PMC2737453

Horzempa J, Shanks RM, Brown MJ, Russo BC, O'Dee DM, Nau GJ. Utilization of an unstable plasmid and the I-SceI endonuclease to generate routine markerless deletion mutants in Francisella tularensis. J Microbiol Methods 2010 Jan;80(1):106-8. PMC3034693

Kalivoda EJ, Stella NA, Aston MA, Fender JE, Thompson PP, Kowalski RP, Shanks RM. Cyclic AMP negatively regulates prodigiosin production by Serratia marcescens. Res Microbiol 2010 Mar;161(2):158-67.

Kowalski RP, Romanowski EG, Mah FS, Shanks RM, Gordon YJ. Topical levofloxacin 1.5% overcomes in vitro resistance in rabbit keratitis models. Acta Ophthalmol 2010 Jun;88(4):e120-5. PubMed PMID: 20456251

Wu EC, Kowalski RP, Romanowski EG, Mah FS, Gordon YJ, Shanks RM. AzaSite(R) inhibits Staphylococcus aureus and coagulase-negative Staphylococcus biofilm formation in vitro. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther 2010 Dec;26(6):557-62. PMC2990284

Hillenbrand ME, Thompson PP, Shanks RM, Kowalski RP. Validation of PCR for the detection of Pseudomonas aeruginosa from corneal samples. Int J Ophthalmol 2011;4(3):262-8. PMC3340821

Kalivoda EJ, Horzempa J, Stella NA, Sadaf A, Kowalski RP, Nau GJ, Shanks RM. New vector tools with a hygromycin resistance marker for use with opportunistic pathogens. Mol Biotechnol 2011 May;48(1):7-14. PMC3617578

Miller KV, Eisley KM, Shanks RM, Lahr RM, Lathrop KL, Kowalski RP, Noecker RJ. Recurrent enterococcal endophthalmitis seeded by an intraocular lens biofilm. J Cataract Refract Surg 2011 Jul;37(7):1355-9. PMCID: PMC3339772

Wingard JB, Romanowski EG, Kowalski RP, Mah FS, Ling Y, Bilonick RA, Shanks RM. A novel cell-associated protection assay demonstrates the ability of certain antibiotics to protect ocular surface cell lines from subsequent clinical Staphylococcus aureus challenge. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 2011 Aug;55(8):3788-94. PMCID: PMC3147657

O'Toole G A, Wathier M, Zegans ME, Shanks RM, Kowalski R, Grinstaff MW. Diphosphonium ionic liquids as broad-spectrum antimicrobial agents. Cornea 2012 Jul;31(7):810-6. PubMed PMC3336019

Rarey KA, Shanks RM, Romanowski EG, Mah FS, Kowalski RP. Staphylococcus aureus isolated from endophthalmitis are hospital-acquired based on Panton-Valentine leukocidin and antibiotic susceptibility testing. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther 2012 Feb;28(1):12-6. PMCID: PMC3272246

Shanks RM, Dashiff A, Alster JS, Kadouri DE. Isolation and identification of a bacteriocin with antibacterial and antibiofilm activity from Citrobacter freundii. Archives in Microbiology 2012 Jul;194(7):575-87. PMC3408838

Shanks RM, Stella NA, Lahr RM, Wang S, Veverka TI, Kowalski RP, Liu X. Serratamolide is a Hemolytic Factor Produced by Serratia marcescens. PLoS One 2012 May;7(5):e36398. PMC3353980

Fender JE, Bender, CM, Stella, NA, Lahr, RM, Kalivoda, EJ, and Shanks, RM. Serratia marcescens quinoprotein glucose dehydrogenase activity mediates medium acidification and inhibition of prodigiosin production by glucose. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2012;78(17):6225-35. PMC3416624

Kowalski RP, Romanowski EG, Shanks RM, and Mah FS. The comparison of fluoroquinolones to nonfluoroquinolone antibacterial agents for the prevention of endophthalmitis in a rabbit model. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther 2012;28(6)604-8. PMC3505830

Stella NA, Fender JE, Lahr RM, Kalivoda EJ, and Shanks RM. The LysR transcription factor, HexS, is required for glucose inhibition of prodigiosin production by Serratia marcescens. Advances in Microbiol. 2012; 2(4):511-517. PMC3865871

Kowalski RP, Kowalski, TA, Shanks, RM, Romanowski, EG, Karenchak, LM, and Mah FS. In Vitro comparison of cefazolin/tobramycin, cefuroxime/gentamicin, and moxifloxacin for the empiric and optimal coverage of bacterial keratitis. Cornea 2013;32(6):830-4. PMID: 23132444

Shanks RM, Stella NA, Arena KE, Fender JE. Mutation of crp mediates Serratia marcescens serralysin and global secreted protein production. Res. Microbiol. 2013; 164(1):38-45. PMC3534799

Romanowski EG, Yates KA, O’Connor KE, Mah FS, Shanks RM, Kowalski RP. The evaluation of polyhexamethylene biguanide (PHMB) as a disinfectant for adenovirus. JAMA Ophthalmology. 2013; 131(4)495-8. PMC3625491

Shanks RM, Lahr RM, Stella NA, Arena KE, Brothers KM, Kwak DH, Liu X, and Kalivoda EJ. A Serratia marcescens PigP Homolog Controls Prodigiosin Biosynthesis, Swarming Motility and Hemolysis and is Regulated by cAMP-CRP and HexS. PLoS One. 2013; 8(3):357634 PMC3585978

O’Hara J, Ambe L, Casella L, Townsend B, Pelletier M, Ernst R, Shanks R, and Doi Y. Activity of vancomycin-containing regimens against colistin-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii clinical strains. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 2013; 131(4)2103-8 PMC3632926

Kadouri DE, To K, Shanks RM, Doi Y. Predatory bacteria: a potential ally against multidrug-resistant Gram-negative pathogens. PLoS One. 2013; 8(5):e63397 PMC3641118

Shanks RM, Davra VR, Romanowski EG, Brothers KM, Stella NA, Godboley D, Kadouri DE. An Eye to a Kill: Using Predatory Bacteria to Control Gram-Negative Pathogens Associated With Ocular Infections. PLoS One. 2013; 8(6):e66723. PMC3688930

Kadouri DE and Shanks RM. Identification of a methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus inhibitory compound isolated from Serratia marcescens. Research in Microbiology. 2013; 164(8)821-6. PMID: 23791620

Kalivoda EJ, Brothers KM, Stella NA, Schmitt MJ, and Shanks RM. Bacterial cyclic AMP-phosphodiesterase activity coordinates biofilm formation. PLoS One. 2013; 8(7):e71267. PMC3726613

Kowalski RP, Abdel Aziz S, Romanowski EG, Shanks RM, Raju LV Development of a practical complete-kill assay to evaluate anti-acanthamoeba drugs. JAMA Ophthalmology JAMA Ophthalmology. 2013; 131(11)1459-62 . PMID: 24077460.

Research Interests

The major goals of the laboratory are:

  1. discover mechanisms of bacterial virulence factor regulation including biofilm formation.
  2. host-pathogen interactions between ocular pathogens and the cornea. 
  3. translational/applied research to develop new antimicrobials and molecular tools to manipulate microbes.

The microbes that we focus on are Serratia marcescens, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Staphylococcus aureus as these are major causes of corneal infections and antibiotic-resistant hospital infections. We are also interested in using predatory prokaryotes, bacteria that eat other bacteria, as a potential new therapeutic approach to fighting antibiotic resistant ocular infections.

Our approach is to exploit the power of molecular genetics to gain insights into complex biological processes. This is then coupled with microscopy, biochemistry and molecular biology to gain insight into molecular mechanisms.

  • Charles T Campbell Microbiology Laboratory