Dr. Michael Behnke
Assistant Professor
Pathobiological Sciences (PBS)
(225) 578-9857

The lab studies the developmental regulation of the medically relevant parasite Toxoplasma gondii, from the rapidly growing tachyzoite, to the slow growing bradyzoite cyst, through to the enteric/sexual stages. This includes new in vitro approaches to study host-parasite biology of the enteric stages that occur within the intestines of definitive hosts.

Research Interests:
Michael Behnke is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University, where he is studying the Apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. The focus of his lab concerns developmental regulation by the parasite from the rapidly growing tachyzoite, to the slow growing bradyzoite cyst, through to the enteric/sexual stages. One area of research expands on work that determined the transcriptional profile of the merozoite stage, the first of the enteric stages the parasite develops into within the intestine of cats. The goal of this project is to develop a tissue culture platform using cat intestinal epithelial cells to provide the parasite the cell type in which it develops into enteric stages, and to use the information gleaned from profiling the merozoite stage to determine the effectiveness of differentiation in this system. Another project will utilize genetic crosses to investigate the transcriptional signatures that indicate differences in bradyzoite developmental competencies between strains to identify the basis of transcriptional control during the developmental process.

A complete list of publications is available at: PubMed

  • PhD Montana State University
  • BS Northern Arizona University
  • R21 - Large farm and small companion animal intestinal organoids as platforms for parasite enteric development, NIH PTHE, $407,000.00
  • Tagging and Localization Analysis of a Developmentally Regulated T. gondii TgFAM Gene, SVM Summer Scholars Program, $1,000.00
  • Production of monospecific antibodies to merozoite antigens of Toxoplasma gondii, The Center for Experimental Infectious Disease Research, $3,000.00
Book, Textbook:
  • Toxoplasma Gondii: The Model Apicomplexan - Perspectives and Methods, 3rd Edition. Chapter:Development and Application of Classical Genetics in Toxoplasma gondii, Behnke, Michael; Saeij, Jeroen; Boyle, Jon, 2020
Journal Article, Academic Journal:
  • Evolution of resistance in vitro reveals a novel mechanism of artemisinin activity in Toxoplasma gondii., Behnke, Michael; Rozenberg, Alex; Luth, Madeline; Winzler, Elizabeth; Sibley, David, 2019, PNAS
  • QTL mapping and CRISPR editing to identify a drug resistance gene in Toxoplasma gondii, Shen, B.; Powell, R.; Behnke, Michael, 2017, Journal of Visualized Experiments , Volume: 124
  • WRN conditioned media is sufficient for in vitro propagation of intestinal organoids from large farm and small companion animals, Powell, R.; Behnke, Michael, 2017, Biology Open (Company of Biologists) , Volume: 6, Pages: 698-705
  • The Past, Present, and Future of Genetic Manipulation in Toxoplasma gondii., Wang, J; Huang, S; Behnke, Michael; Chen, K; Shen, B; Zhu, X, 2016, Trends in parasitology , Volume: 32, Number: 7, Pages: 542-53
  • Genetic Mapping of Pathogenesis Determinants in Toxoplasma gondii., Behnke, Michael; Dubey, J; Sibley, L, 2016, Annual review of microbiology , Volume: 70, Pages: 63-81
  • Local admixture of amplified and diversified secreted pathogenesis determinants shapes mosaic Toxoplasma gondii genomes., Lorenzi, H; Khan, A; Behnke, Michael; Namasivayam, S; Swapna, L; Hadjithomas, M; Karamycheva, S; Pinney, D; Brunk, B; Ajioka, J; Ajzenberg, D; Boothroyd, J; Boyle, J; Dardé, M; Diaz-Miranda, M; Dubey, J; Fritz, H; Gennari, S; Gregory, B; Kim, K; Saeij, J; Su, C; White, M; Zhu, X; Howe, D; Rosenthal, B; Grigg, M; Parkinson, J; Liu, L; Kissinger, J; Roos, D; David Sibley, L, 2016, Nature communications , Volume: 7, Pages: 10147
  • Rhoptry Proteins ROP5 and ROP18 Are Major Murine Virulence Factors in Genetically Divergent South American Strains of Toxoplasma gondii., Behnke, Michael; Khan, A; Lauron, E; Jimah, J; Wang, Q; Tolia, N; Sibley, L, 2015, PLoS genetics , Volume: 11, Number: 8, Pages: e1005434
  • Genetic mapping reveals that sinefungin resistance in Toxoplasma gondii is controlled by a putative amino acid transporter locus that can be used as a negative selectable marker., Behnke, Michael; Khan, A; Sibley, L, 2015, Eukaryotic cell , Volume: 14, Number: 2, Pages: 140-8
  • Genotyping Toxoplasma gondii from wildlife in Pennsylvania and identification of natural recombinants virulent to mice, , 2014, Veterinary Parasitology , Volume: 200, Number: 1-2, Pages: 74-84
  • NextGen sequencing reveals short double crossovers contribute disproportionately to genetic diversity in Toxoplasma gondii, , 2014, BMC Genomics , Volume: 15, Number: 1
  • Toxoplasma gondii merozoite gene expression analysis with comparison to the life cycle discloses a unique expression state during enteric development., Behnke, Michael; Zhang, T; Dubey, J; Sibley, L, 2014, BMC genomics , Volume: 15, Pages: 350
  • miR-146a and miR-155 delineate a MicroRNA fingerprint associated with Toxoplasma persistence in the host brain., Cannella, D; Brenier-Pinchart, M; Braun, L; van Rooyen, J; Bougdour, A; Bastien, O; Behnke, Michael; Curt, R; Curt, A; Saeij, J; Sibley, L; Pelloux, H; Hakimi, M, 2014, Cell reports , Volume: 6, Number: 5, Pages: 928-37
  • Compensatory dendritic cell development mediated by BATF-IRF interactions, , 2012, Nature , Volume: 490, Number: 7421, Pages: 502-507
  • The polymorphic pseudokinase ROP5 controls virulence in Toxoplasma gondii by regulating the active kinase ROP18., Behnke, Michael; Fentress, S; Mashayekhi, M; Li , L; Taylor, G; Sibley, L, 2012, PLoS pathogens , Volume: 8, Number: 11, Pages: e1002992
  • A systematic screen to discover and analyze apicoplast proteins identifies a conserved and essential protein import factor., Sheiner, L; Demerly, J; Poulsen, N; Beatty, W; Lucas, O; Behnke, Michael; White, M; Striepen, B, 2011, PLoS pathogens , Volume: 7, Number: 12, Pages: e1002392
  • Virulence differences in Toxoplasma mediated by amplification of a family of polymorphic pseudokinases., Behnke, Michael; Khan, A; Wootton, J; Dubey, J; Tang, K; Sibley, L, 2011, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , Volume: 108, Number: 23, Pages: 9631-6
  • Cell cycle-dependent, intercellular transmission of Toxoplasma gondii is accompanied by marked changes in parasite gene expression., Gaji, R; Behnke, Michael; Lehmann, M; White, M; Carruthers, V, 2011, Molecular microbiology , Volume: 79, Number: 1, Pages: 192-204
  • A novel multifunctional oligonucleotide microarray for Toxoplasma gondii, , 2010, BMC Genomics , Volume: 11, Number: 1
  • Phosphorylation of immunity-related GTPases by a Toxoplasma gondii-secreted kinase promotes macrophage survival and virulence., Fentress, S; Behnke, Michael; Dunay, I; Mashayekhi, M; Rommereim, L; Fox, B; Bzik, D; Taylor, G; Turk, B; Lichti, C; Townsend, R; Qiu, W; Hui, R; Beatty, W; Sibley, L, 2010, Cell host & microbe , Volume: 8, Number: 6, Pages: 484-95
  • T. gondii RP promoters & knockdown reveal molecular pathways associated with proliferation and cell-cycle arrest., Hutson, S; Mui, E; Kinsley, K; Witola, W; Behnke, Michael; El Bissati, K; Muench, S; Rohrman, B; Liu, S; Wollmann, R; Ogata, Y; Sarkeshik, A; Yates, 3rd, J; McLeod, R, 2010, PloS one , Volume: 5, Number: 11, Pages: e14057
  • Coordinated progression through two subtranscriptomes underlies the tachyzoite cycle of Toxoplasma gondii., Behnke, Michael; Wootton, J; Lehmann, M; Radke, J; Lucas, O; Nawas, J; Sibley, L; White, M, 2010, PloS one , Volume: 5, Number: 8, Pages: e12354