Dr Maria Gravato-Nobre

Stipendiary Lecturer in Molecular Cell Biology, Developmental Biology and Genetics

PhD in Life Sciences

 Maria João obtained her Diploma in Agronomy from the University of Lisbon in 1984 and her MSc in Nematology from the University of the Algarve in 1999. In 1996 she obtained a PhD at IACR and the University of Nottingham. She held subsequent positions as a tenured Lecturer at the University of the Algarve and a Research Scientist at Zeneca Agrochemicals.  Since 2000 she has been a Research Associate with Professor Jonathan Hodgkin at the University of Oxford. In 2011 Maria Joao became a Stipendiary lecturer at Hertford College.

Undergraduate teaching 

 Maria Joao teaches undergraduate tutorials in Molecular Cell Biology and Developmental Biology and Genetics.

Postgraduate teaching 

 Maria Joao supervises DPhil students in the genetics of C. elegans innate immunity.  In 2011 she was invited to teach on a Master course at the University of Algarve.


 Maria Joao’s research focuses predominantly on the genetics of innate immunity in the nematode C. elegans, which provides a powerful experimental model to study the innate immune response. Many human pathogens have already been shown capable of infecting C. elegans, producing morbidity and mortality. These include the Gram-negative bacteria Pseudomonas sp., Salmonella typhimurium and other S. enterica serovars, Serratia marcescens, Yersinia pestis and Burkholderia cepacia, the Gram-positive bacteria Enterococcus faecalis, Staphylococcus aureus and S. epidermis, and Candida albicans.  In particular, Maria Joao has been studying Microbacterium nematophilum, a bacterium that adheres to the glycocalyx, inducing an inflammatory response. Through genetic screens for bacterially unswollen (Bus) mutants, she has identified over 21 significant loci. Among these are genes coding for glycosyltransferases, galactosyltransferases, acyltransferases, a nucleotide sugar transporter and a novel gene of unknown function. All of these genes affect surface characteristics.  Most mutations prevent the adherence of both M. nematophilum and Yesinia pseudotuberculosis. Maria Joao is currently investigating the end-product glycoconjugates responsible for bacterial adhesion.


 Journal Articles


  • Hodgkin, J., Felix, M-A, Clark, L., Stroud, D., and Gravato-Nobre, M.J. (2013). Two Leucobacter Strains Exert Complementary  virulence on Caenorhabditis Including Dead by Worm-Star Formation. Current Biology 23, (in press).


  • Gravato-Nobre, M.J., Stroud, D., O'Rourke, D., Darby, C., and Hodgkin, J. (2011). Glycosylation Genes Expressed in Seam Cells Determine Complex Surface Properties and Bacterial Adhesion to the Cuticle of Caenorhabditis elegans. Genetics, 187, 141-155.
  • Palaima, E., Leymarie, N., Stroud, D., Mizanur, R.M., Hodgkin, J., Gravato-Nobre, M.J., Costello, C.E., and Cipollo, J.F. (2010). The Caenorhabditis elegans bus-2 mutant reveals a new class of O-glycans affecting bacterial resistance. J Biol Chem 285, 17662-17672.


  • Partridge, F.A., Gravato-Nobre, M.J., and Hodgkin, J. (2010). Signal transduction pathways that function in both development and innate immunity. Dev Dyn 239, 1330-1336.


  • Haenni, S., Sharpe, H.E., Gravato Nobre, M., Zechner, K., Browne, C., Hodgkin, J., and Furger, A. (2009). Regulation of transcription termination in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Nucleic Acids Res 37, 6723-6736.


  • Gravato-Nobre MJ, Hodgkin J (2008). The acyltransferase gene bus-1 exhibits conserved and specific expression in nematode rectal cells and reveals pathogen-induced cell swelling. Dev Dyn. 2008 Dec; 237(12):3762-76.
  • Appleford PJ, Gravato-Nobre M, Braun T, Woollard A. (2008). Identification of cis-regulatory elements from the C. elegans T-box gene mab-9 reveals a novel role for mab-9 in hypodermal function. Dev Biol. May 15; 317(2):695-704.
  • Partridge FA, Tearle AW, Gravato-Nobre MJ, Schafer WR, Hodgkin J. (2008) The C. elegans glycosyltransferase BUS-8 has two distinct and essential roles in epidermal morphogenesis. Dev Biol. May 15; 317(2):549-59.


  • Gravato-Nobre, M.J., Nicholas H.R, Nijland, R., O’Rourke, D., Whittington, D., Yook, KJ, Hodgkin, JA. (2005) Multiple genes affect sensitivity of Caenorhabditis elegans to the bacterial pathogen Microbacterium nematophilum. Genetics 171:1033-1045
  • Gravato-Nobre, M.J., Hodgkin, JA (2005). Caenorhabditis elegans as model for innate immunity to pathogens. Cellular Microbiology 7: 741-751.


  • Jörg Höflich J., Berninsone P., Göbel C., Gravato-Nobre M.J., Libby B.J., Darby C, Sam Politz S., Hodgkin J.A., Hirschberg C. B. and Baumeister R (2004).  Loss of the srf-3 encoded nucleotide sugar transporter activity in Caenorhabditis elegans alters surface antigenicity and prevents bacterial adherence. J Biol Chem. 279: 30440-30448.


  • Gravato-Nobre, M.J., Davies, K.G., von Mende, N., Mulligan, B. & Evans, K. (2001) The identification of some cuticular and ES antigens shared by both plant parasitic and free living nematodes. International Journal of  Nematology  11 :157-167.


  • Gravato-Nobre, M.J., McClure, M.A., Dolan, L., Calder, L., Davies, K.G., Mulligan, B., Evans, K. & von Mende, N. (1999)  Meloidogyne incognita surface antigen epitopes in infected Arabidopsis roots. Journal of Nematology  31: 212-223.


  • Manzanilla-Lopez, R. H., Rowe, J., Evans, K., Gravato-Nobre, M. and von Mende, N. (1998). External secretions from the false root-knot nematode, Nacobbus aberrans (Thorne, 1935) Thorne & Allen, 1944 (Tylenchida: Pratylenchidae).  Nematologica  44: 326-330.
  • Gravato Nobre, M.J. & Evans, K. (1998). Plant and nematode surfaces: their structure and importance in host-parasite interactions.  Nematologica  44: 1-22.


  • Gravato Nobre, M.J., von Mende, N., Dolan, L., Schmidt, K.P., Evans, K. & Mulligan, B.. 1995. Immunolabelling of cell surfaces of Arabidopsis thaliana roots following infection by Meloidoyne incognita (Nematoda). Journal of Experimental Botany 46 : 1711-1720.
  • Fernandez, C., Pinochet J., Esmenjaud, D., Gravato Nobre, M. J. & Felipe, A. (1995). Age of plant material influences resistance of some Prunus rootstocks to Meloidogyne incognita. Hort. Science 30: 582-585.


  • Gravato-Nobre, M.J. and Hodgkin, J.  Microbial interaction with Caenorhabditis elegans: lessons from a model organism. In: Biological Control of plant parasitic nematodes: building coherence between microbial ecology and molecular mechanisms. Itzik Spiegel & Keith Davies (eds). Springer. (2011)
  • von Mende, Nicola, Gravato Nobre, Maria J. & Perry, Roland N. Host finding, invasion and feeding. In: Cyst Forming Nematodes. S. B. Sharma (ed), London: Kluwer, pp 217-238. (1998).