• Dr. Joseph Pitula

    My lab is interested in various aspects of protistan biology, particularly of parasitic species. Our interests include the ecology of disease transmission, host-parasite interactions, protist metabolism, and protist gene expression.  We currently study two marine parasites. One is the dinoflagellate parasite Hematodinium perezi, an important disease agent in blue crabs and other crustaceans. The other is Perkinsus marinus, the causative agent of Dermo disease in oysters. We also study Leishmania tarentolae, a model organism for the related Leishmania parasites of humans.

    Academic Appointments

     1/04-Present           University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Associate Professor, Department of Natural Sciences   

    1/08-Present            University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science-Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, Adjunct Faculty

    2/01-12/03              University of Wisconsin, Madison, Post Doctoral Research Associate, Department of Nutrition

    8/95-1/01                State University of New York at Buffalo, Graduate Research Assistant, Microbial Pathogenesis                        


    Selected Publications


    Pitula JS, Dyson WD, Bakht HB, Njoku I, and Chen F. (2012) Temporal distribution of genetically homogenous 'free-living' Hematodinium sp. in a Delmarva coastal ecosystem. Aquat Biosyst. 8:16; doi: 10.1186/2046-9063-8-16

    Hearne JL and Pitula JS. (2011) Identification of Two Spliced Leader RNA Transcripts from Perkinsus marinus  J.  Eukaryot Micro. 58: 266-268.

    Nagle L, Place AR, Schott EJ, Jagus R, Messick G, and Pitula JS. (2009) A Real-time PCR-based Assay for Quantitative Detection of Hematodinium sp. in the Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus) Dis Aquat Org. 84: 79-87.

    Clarke SL, Vasanthakumar A, Anderson SA, Pondarré C, Koh CM, Deck KM, Pitula JS, Epstein CJ, Fleming MD, and Eisenstein RS. (2006) Iron-responsive degradation of iron-regulatory protein 1 does not require the Fe-S cluster. EMBO J. 8:544-553.                        

    Pitula JS, Deck KM, Clarke SL,  Anderson SA, Vasanthakumar A, and Eisenstein RS. (2004) Selective inhibition of the citrate-to-isocitrate reaction of cytosolic aconitase by phosphomimetic mutation of serine-711.  Proc Natl Acad Sci. 101: 10907-10912.                                              

    Pitula J, Ruyechan WT, and Williams N. (2002) Two novel RNA binding proteins from Trypanosoma brucei are associated with 5S rRNA. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Comm. 290: 569-576.


    Examples of Funded Projects

    Agency: NSF 11/2010-11/2015, Co-PI

    Center for Research Excellence in Science & Technology (CREST): Center for the Integrated Study of Coastal Ecosystem Processes and Dynamics in the Mid-Atlantic region.

    Subproject entitled: Effects of Environmental Factors on Blue Crab (C. sapidus) and its Relation to Infection by Hematodinium sp.

    In my sub aim, we will a) Determine abundance and distribution of blue crabs in the Maryland Coastal Bays b) Determine prevalence and intensity of Hematodinium sp. infection on blue crabs c) Determine the utility of using stress biomarkers in monitoring infection in an ecological setting and d) Perform controlled infection studies on Hematodinium on blue crabs in a laboratory setting. PI: Paulinus Chigbu.

    Agency: Maryland Technology and Development Corporation   10/09- 10/10, PI                 

    Analysis of PEPCK, an essential metabolic enzyme, from Leishmania tarentolae

    This proposal aims to investigate a key enzyme essential in the life cycle of Leishmania species, with the goal to assist in rational drug design initiatives.

    Agency: NSF  10/06-08/08, PI                                                                                      

    Discovery of Novel RNA Polymerase III Transcription Factors in Trypanosomatids

    The goal of this project is to identify unique RNA polymerase III transcription factors from Trypanosomatids, and to generate preliminary data regarding whether they function in an analogous fashion to that of higher eukaryotes, or with significantly different mechanisms.


    From left to right: Habibul Bakht (Ph.D, Marine-Estuarine-Environmental Science), Tiana Jones (B.S., LMRCSC) Whitney Dyson (M.S. Marine-Estuarine-Environmental Science/LMRCSC), Kristen Lycett (M.S., Marine-Estuarine-Environmental Science/CREST-CISCEP), Dr. Joseph Pitula