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Alexander J. Szalai, PhD

Alexander J. Szalai, PhD
Department of Medicine
Division of Immunology and Rheumatology
Shelby Building, Room 214
1825 University Boulevard
Telephone:(205) 975-6241


  • BSc (Dean's Honor List), University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, 1979
  • MSc, (ZoologyUniversity of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, 1986
  • PhD, (Immunoparasitology) University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, 1990
  • Research Fellow, Department of Microbiology, The University of Mississippi Medical Center, 1990-1992

Research Description

The overarching goal of my research is to understand the biological role of C-reactive protein (CRP) in maintenance of health and propagation of disease. Diseases of interest include: systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, septic arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disease, and microbial infection. We use a multi-faceted approach that entails studies of CRP biology in transgenic and knockout mice, bolstered by translational studies with human cells and DNA in vitro aimed at revealing CRP genetic and phenotypic associations with disease. Our latest work is geared towards development of CRP lowering drugs, understanding the role of CRP in cardiometabolic disease, and deciphering the contribution of CRP to cerebral malaria. Ligand-bound CRP activates the complement system and binds to Fcg receptors; therefore we also study these two effector pathways.

Potential projects for trainees

Investigating the role of C-reactive protein in translational studies of :

  • cardiovascular disease
  • ischemia-reperfusion injury
  • diabetes
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • systemic lupus
  • septic arthritis
  • cerebral malaria
  • arteriovenous fistula failure
  • multiple sclerosis

Selected Publications

  1. Szalai AJ, Wu J, Lange EM, McCrory MA, Langefeld CD, Williams A, Zakharkin SO, George V, Allison DB, Cooper GS, Xie F, Fan Z, Edberg JC, Kimberly RP. 2005. Single nucleotide polymorphisms in the C-reactive protein (CRP) gene promoter that affect transcription factor binding, alter transcriptional activity, and associate with differences in baseline serum CRP level. Journal of Molecular Medicine, 83:440-447 (issue highlight and COVER) PMID: 15778807
  2. Szalai AJ, GS Alarcon, J Calvo-Alen, SMA Toloza, MA McCrory, JC Edberg, G McGwin, Jr., HM Bastian, BJ Fessler, LM Vila, RP Kimberly, and JD Reveille. 2005. Systemic lupus erythematosus in a multiethnic US cohort (LUMINA) XXX: Association between C-reactive protein (CRP) gene polymorphism and vascular events.Rheumatology, 2005; 44:864-868 PMID: 15797975
  3. AJ Szalai, X Hu, C Raman, SR Barnum. 2005. Requirement of the Fc receptor common g-chain for gd T cell-mediated promotion of murine experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. European Journal of Immunology, 35:3487-3492 PMID: 16278814
  4. Chen K, Li F, Li J, Cai H, Strom S, Bisello A, Kelley DE, Friedman-Einat M, Skibinski GA, McCrory MA, Szalai AJ, Zhao AZ. 2006. Induction of leptin resistance through direct interaction of C-reactive protein with leptin. Nature Medicine, 12:425-432. PMID: 16582918
  5. Szalai AJ, X Hu, JE Adams, SR Barnum. 2007. Complement in experimental autoimmune encephalo-myelitis revisited: C3 is required for development of maximal disease. Molecular Immunology, 44:3132-3136. PMID: 17353050
  6. Xing D, Hage FG, Chen YF, McCrory MA, Feng W, Skibinski GA, Majid-Hassan E, Oparill S, AJ Szalai. 2008. Exxagerated neointima formation in human C-reactive protein transgenic mice is immunoglobulin Fcg receptor I (FcgRI) dependent. The American Journal of Pathology. 172:22-30 (issue highlight and COVER) PMID: 18063701
  7. Smith SS, Ludwig M, Wohler JE, Bullard DC, Szalai AJ, Barnum SR. 2008. Deletion of both ICAM-1 and C3 enhances severity of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis compared to C3-deficient mice. Neurosci Lett. 442:158-60. PMID: 18634851
  8. R Zhang, YY Zhang, XR Huang, Y Wu , AC Chung, EX Wu, AJ Szalai, BC Wong, CP Lau, HY Lan. 2010. C- reactive protein Promotes Cardiac Fibrosis and Inflammation in Angiotensin II-Induced Hypertensive Cardiac Disease.  Hypertension. 55:953-60 PMID: 20157054
  9. Fadi G. Hage, Suzanne Oparil, Dongqi Xing, Yiu-Fai Chen, Mark A. McCrory, and Alexander J. Szalai. 2010. C-Reactive Protein Mediated Vascular Injury Requires Complement.  Arterios Thromb. Vasc. Biol. 30: 1189-1195.PMID: 20339115
  10. Li J, Wang JP, Ghiran I, Cerny A, Szalai AJ, Briles DE, Finberg RW.2010. Complement receptor 1 expression on mouse erythrocytes mediates clearance of Streptococcus pneumoniae by immune adherence.Infect Immun.78(7):3129-35PMID: 20439480
  11. Hu XZ, Wright TT, Jones NR, Ramos TN, Skibinski GA, McCrory MA, Barnum SR, Szalai AJ. 2011. Inhibition of Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis in Human C-Reactive Protein Transgenic Mice Is FcγRIIB Dependent. Autoimmune Dis. 2011:484936. PMID: 21151582
  12. Li Z, Chung AC, Zhou L, Huang XR, Liu F, Fu P, Fan JM, Szalai AJ, Lan HY. 2011. C-reactive protein promotes acute renal inflammation and fibrosis in unilateral ureteral obstructive nephropathy in mice. Lab Invest. 2011 Mar 7. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 21383672
  13. Jones NR, Pegues MA, McCrory MA, Kerr SW, Jiang H, Sellati R, Berger V, Villalona J, Parikh R, McFarland M, Pantages L, Madwed JB, Szalai AJ. 2011. Collagen-induced arthritis is exacerbated in C-reactive protein deficient mice. Arthritis Rheum. 2011 May 12. doi: 10.1002/art.30444. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 21567377
  14. Jones NR, MA Pegues, MA McCrory, W Singleton, C Bethune, BF Baker, DA Norris, RM Crooke, MJ Graham andAJ Szalai. 2012. A Selective Inhibitor of Human C-reactive Protein Translation Is Efficacious In Vitro and in C-reactive Protein Transgenic Mice and Humans Molecular Therapy Nucleic Acids1, e52; doi:10.1038/mtna.2012.44