Pankaj Baral, Assistant Professor

Pankaj Baral

Contact information

239C Chalmers Hall
(785) 532-6332

Lab website:


Ph.D. 2013, Mahidol University, Thailand, Microbiology and Immunology

Area(s) of Specialization

Neuroimmunology, Innate immunity, Airway inflammation, Infectious disease, Host-pathogen interactions.

Research Focus

My lab research primarily focuses on neuroimmunology, innate immunity, and host–pathogen interactions in lung. The respiratory tract is heavily innervated by sensory and autonomic (sympathetic and parasympathetic) neurons that constantly interact with external and endogenous insults, including pathogens. Respiratory infectious diseases such as viral pneumonia, pneumococcal pneumonia and drug resistant Gram-negative pneumonia are major global health problems. Current treatment modalities and vaccines for these respiratory diseases are not effective for the absolute protection of disease. My lab will study how neuro-immune interaction at respiratory tract regulates the host defense and inflammation during respiratory infection and acute lung injury. The nervous system cross-talks with the immune system through the neuronal mediators, such as neuropeptides (e.g. calcitonin gene-related peptide; substance P, vasoactive intestinal peptide, etc.) and neurotransmitters (e.g. epinephrine, nor-epinephrine, acetylcholine). The long-lasting goals of my research are to determine how respiratory tract-innervating neurons alter the host defense and immunopathology of lung diseases, including bacterial pneumonia, respiratory viral infection and chronic lung diseases, and to understand the key cellular interaction pathways to nervous system that could be targeted for therapeutic purposes.

Selected Publications

Zhang B, Ma S, Rachmin I, He M, Baral P, Choi S, Goncalves W, Shwartz Y, Fast EV, Su Y, Zon LI, Regev A, Buenrostro JD, Cunha TM, Chiu IM, Fisher DE, Hsu Y. 2020. Hyperactivation of sympathetic nerves drives depletion of melanocyte stem cells, Nature, 577(7792):676-681.

Lai NY, Musser MA*, Pinho-Ribeiro FA*, Baral P*, Jacobson A*, Ma P, Potts DE, Chen Z, Paik D, Soualhi S, Yan Y, Misra A, Goldstein K, Lagomarsino VN, Nordstrom A, Sivanathan KN, Wallrapp A, Kuchroo VK, Nowarski R, Starnbach MN, Shi H, Surana NK, An D, Wu C, Huh JR, Rao M, Chiu IM. 2020. Gut-innervating nociceptor neurons regulate Peyer's patch microfold cells and SFB levels to mediate Salmonella host defense, Cell 180, 33–49.

Baral P, Udit S, Chiu IM. Pain and immunity: implications for host defence. 2019. Nature Reviews Immunology 19(7):433-447.

Paudel S, Baral P, Ghimire L, Bergeron S, Jin L, DeCorte JA, Le JT, Cai S, Jeyaseelan S. 2019. CXCL1 regulates neutrophil homeostasis in pneumonia-derived sepsis caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 3. Blood 133(12):1335-1345.

Baral P, Umans BD, Li L, Wallrapp A, Bist M, Kirschbaum T, Wei Y, Zhou Y, Kuchroo VK, Burkett PR, Yipp BG, Liberles SD, Chiu IM. 2018. Nociceptor sensory neurons suppress neutrophil and γδ T cell responses in bacterial lung infections and lethal pneumonia. Nature Medicine (4):417-426.

Blake KJ, Baral P, Voisin T, Lubkin A, Pinho-Ribeiro FA, Adams KL, Roberson DP, Ma YC, Otto M, Woolf CJ, Torres VJ, Chiu IM. 2018. Staphylococcus aureus produces pain through pore-forming toxins and neuronal TRPV1 that is silenced by QX-314. Nature Communications 9(1):37.

Wallrapp A, Riesenfeld SJ, Burkett PR, Abdulnour RE, Nyman J, Dionne D, Hofree M, Cuoco MS, Rodman C, Farouq D, Haas BJ, Tickle TL, Trombetta JJ, Baral P, Klose CSN, Mahlakõiv T, Artis D, Rozenblatt-Rosen O, Chiu IM, Levy BD, Kowalczyk MS, Regev A, Kuchroo VK. 2017. The neuropeptide NMU amplifies ILC2-driven allergic lung inflammation. Nature 549(7672):351-356.

Baral P, Mills K, Pinho-Ribeiro FA, Chiu IM. 2016. Pain and Itch: Beneficial or Harmful to Antimicrobial Defense? Cell Host Microbe, 19(6):755-9.

Baral P, Batra S, Zemans RL, Downey GP, Jeyaseelan S. 2014. Divergent functions of Toll-like receptors during bacterial lung infections. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 190(7):722-32.

Baral P, Utaisincharoen P. 2013. Sterile α and armadillo motif containing protein inhibits the TRIF-dependent downregulation of signal regulatory protein α to interfere with intracellular bacterial elimination in Burkholderia pseudomallei-infected mouse macrophages. Infection and Immunity 81(9):3463M71.

Baral P, Utaisincharoen P. 2012 Involvement of signal regulatory protein, a negative regulator of Toll-like receptor signaling, in impairing MyD88Mindependent pathway and intracellular killing of Burkholderia pseudomallei-infected mouse macrophages, Infection and Immunity 80(12):4223M31

For a complete list of publications visit my Google Scholar page