Dr. Melehani completed his medical and graduate research training at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, earning both a medical degree and a doctorate in pharmacology. In his dissertation research, Dr. Melehani studied the molecular mechanism by which the innate immune system and Staphylococcus aureus interact. During his time in graduate and medical school, Dr. Melehani developed an interest in drug development - understanding the evidence supporting our use of medications in the clinic, as well as the process of discovering new targets and creating new medicines. To better understand this process, Dr. Melehani worked as a fellow at Hatteras Venture Partners, a healthcare- and biotechnology-focused venture capital firm in North Carolina. At Hatteras, Dr. Melehani worked closely with the investment team and managing partners to evaluate early-stage therapeutic development companies to find those with the greatest potential for transforming medicine.

Now, at Stanford, Dr. Melehani has completed residency training in Internal Medicine. He is a member of the Translational Investigator Program and is continuing training in Rheumatology and Pulmonary Medicine. He has an interest in immune-mediated pathogenesis in lung disease. His work currently focuses on studying how Sjogren's syndrome contributes to lung disease and lung transplant outcomes in patients with systemic sclerosis and other connective tissue diseases.

All Publications

  • Inflammasome Activation Can Mediate Tissue-Specific Pathogenesis or Protection in Staphylococcus aureus Infection. Current topics in microbiology and immunology Melehani, J. H., Duncan, J. A. 2016; 397: 257-82


    Staphylococcus aureus is a Gram-positive coccus that interacts with human hosts on a spectrum from quiet commensal to deadly pathogen. S. aureus is capable of infecting nearly every tissue in the body resulting in cellulitis, pneumonia, osteomyelitis, endocarditis, brain abscesses, bacteremia, and more. S. aureus has a wide range of factors that promote infection, and each site of infection triggers a different response in the human host. In particular, the different patterns of inflammasome activation mediate tissue-specific pathogenesis or protection in S. aureus infection. Although still a nascent field, understanding the unique host-pathogen interactions in each infection and the role of inflammasomes in mediating pathogenesis may lead to novel strategies for treating S. aureus infections. Reviews addressing S. aureus virulence and pathogenesis (Thammavongsa et al. 2015), as well as epidemiology and pathophysiology (Tong et al. 2015), have recently been published. This review will focus on S. aureus factors that activate inflammasomes and their impact on innate immune signaling and bacterial survival.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-41171-2_13

    View details for PubMedID 27460814

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5145311

  • Staphylococcus aureus Leukocidin A/B (LukAB) Kills Human Monocytes via Host NLRP3 and ASC when Extracellular, but Not Intracellular. PLoS pathogens Melehani, J. H., James, D. B., DuMont, A. L., Torres, V. J., Duncan, J. A. 2015; 11 (6): e1004970


    Staphylococcus aureus infections are a growing health burden worldwide, and paramount to this bacterium's pathogenesis is the production of virulence factors, including pore-forming leukotoxins. Leukocidin A/B (LukAB) is a recently discovered toxin that kills primary human phagocytes, though the underlying mechanism of cell death is not understood. We demonstrate here that LukAB is a major contributor to the death of human monocytes. Using a variety of in vitro and ex vivo intoxication and infection models, we found that LukAB activates Caspase 1, promotes IL-1β secretion and induces necrosis in human monocytes. Using THP1 cells as a model for human monocytes, we found that the inflammasome components NLRP3 and ASC are required for LukAB-mediated IL-1β secretion and necrotic cell death. S. aureus was shown to kill human monocytes in a LukAB dependent manner under both extracellular and intracellular ex vivo infection models. Although LukAB-mediated killing of THP1 monocytes from extracellular S. aureus requires ASC, NLRP3 and the LukAB-receptor CD11b, LukAB-mediated killing from phagocytosed S. aureus is independent of ASC or NLRP3, but dependent on CD11b. Altogether, this study provides insight into the nature of LukAB-mediated killing of human monocytes. The discovery that S. aureus LukAB provokes differential host responses in a manner dependent on the cellular contact site is critical for the development of anti-infective/anti-inflammatory therapies that target the NLRP3 inflammasome.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004970

    View details for PubMedID 26069969

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4466499

  • Functional Amyloid Signaling via the Inflammasome, Necrosome, and Signalosome: New Therapeutic Targets in Heart Failure. Frontiers in cardiovascular medicine Parry, T. L., Melehani, J. H., Ranek, M. J., Willis, M. S. 2015; 2: 25


    As the most common cause of death and disability, globally, heart disease remains an incompletely understood enigma. A growing number of cardiac diseases are being characterized by the presence of misfolded proteins underlying their pathophysiology, including cardiac amyloidosis and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). At least nine precursor proteins have been implicated in the development of cardiac amyloidosis, most commonly caused by multiple myeloma light chain disease and disease-causing mutant or wildtype transthyretin (TTR). Similarly, aggregates with PSEN1 and COFILIN-2 have been identified in up to one-third of idiopathic DCM cases studied, indicating the potential predominance of misfolded proteins in heart failure. In this review, we present recent evidence linking misfolded proteins mechanistically with heart failure and present multiple lines of new therapeutic approaches that target the prevention of misfolded proteins in cardiac TTR amyloid disease. These include multiple small molecule pharmacological chaperones now in clinical trials designed specifically to support TTR folding by rational design, such as tafamidis, and chaperones previously developed for other purposes, such as doxycycline and tauroursodeoxycholic acid. Last, we present newly discovered non-pathological "functional" amyloid structures, such as the inflammasome and necrosome signaling complexes, which can be activated directly by amyloid. These may represent future targets to successfully attenuate amyloid-induced proteotoxicity in heart failure, as the inflammasome, for example, is being therapeutically inhibited experimentally in autoimmune disease. Together, these studies demonstrate multiple novel points in which new therapies may be used to primarily prevent misfolded proteins or to inhibit their downstream amyloid-mediated effectors, such as the inflammasome, to prevent proteotoxicity in heart failure.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fcvm.2015.00025

    View details for PubMedID 26664897

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4671334

  • Toxoplasma Co-opts Host Cells It Does Not Invade PLOS PATHOGENS Koshy, A. A., Dietrich, H. K., Christian, D. A., Melehani, J. H., Shastri, A. J., Hunter, C. A., Boothroyd, J. C. 2012; 8 (7)


    Like many intracellular microbes, the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii injects effector proteins into cells it invades. One group of these effector proteins is injected from specialized organelles called the rhoptries, which have previously been described to discharge their contents only during successful invasion of a host cell. In this report, using several reporter systems, we show that in vitro the parasite injects rhoptry proteins into cells it does not productively invade and that the rhoptry effector proteins can manipulate the uninfected cell in a similar manner to infected cells. In addition, as one of the reporter systems uses a rhoptry:Cre recombinase fusion protein, we show that in Cre-reporter mice infected with an encysting Toxoplasma-Cre strain, uninfected-injected cells, which could be derived from aborted invasion or cell-intrinsic killing after invasion, are actually more common than infected-injected cells, especially in the mouse brain, where Toxoplasma encysts and persists. This phenomenon has important implications for how Toxoplasma globally affects its host and opens a new avenue for how other intracellular microbes may similarly manipulate the host environment at large.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002825

    View details for Web of Science ID 000306837700043

    View details for PubMedID 22910631

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3406079

  • CMF70 is a subunit of the dynein regulatory complex. Journal of cell science Kabututu, Z. P., Thayer, M., Melehani, J. H., Hill, K. L. 2010; 123 (Pt 20): 3587-95


    Flagellar motility drives propulsion of several important pathogens and is essential for human development and physiology. Motility of the eukaryotic flagellum requires coordinate regulation of thousands of dynein motors arrayed along the axoneme, but the proteins underlying dynein regulation are largely unknown. The dynein regulatory complex, DRC, is recognized as a focal point of axonemal dynein regulation, but only a single DRC subunit, trypanin/PF2, is currently known. The component of motile flagella 70 protein, CMF70, is broadly and uniquely conserved among organisms with motile flagella, suggesting a role in axonemal motility. Here we demonstrate that CMF70 is part of the DRC from Trypanosoma brucei. CMF70 is located along the flagellum, co-sediments with trypanin in sucrose gradients and co-immunoprecipitates with trypanin. RNAi knockdown of CMF70 causes motility defects in a wild-type background and suppresses flagellar paralysis in cells with central pair defects, thus meeting the functional definition of a DRC subunit. Trypanin and CMF70 are mutually conserved in at least five of six extant eukaryotic clades, indicating that the DRC was probably present in the last common eukaryotic ancestor. We have identified only the second known subunit of this ubiquitous dynein regulatory system, highlighting the utility of combined genomic and functional analyses for identifying novel subunits of axonemal sub-complexes.

    View details for DOI 10.1242/jcs.073817

    View details for PubMedID 20876659

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2951471

  • The Trypanosoma brucei flagellum: moving parasites in new directions. Annual review of microbiology Ralston, K. S., Kabututu, Z. P., Melehani, J. H., Oberholzer, M., Hill, K. L. 2009; 63: 335-62


    African trypanosomes are devastating human and animal pathogens. Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense and T. b. gambiense subspecies cause the fatal human disease known as African sleeping sickness. It is estimated that several hundred thousand new infections occur annually and the disease is fatal if untreated. T. brucei is transmitted by the tsetse fly and alternates between bloodstream-form and insect-form life cycle stages that are adapted to survive in the mammalian host and the insect vector, respectively. The importance of the flagellum for parasite motility and attachment to the tsetse fly salivary gland epithelium has been appreciated for many years. Recent studies have revealed both conserved and novel features of T. brucei flagellum structure and composition, as well as surprising new functions that are outlined here. These discoveries are important from the standpoint of understanding trypanosome biology and identifying novel drug targets, as well as for advancing our understanding of fundamental aspects of eukaryotic flagellum structure and function.

    View details for DOI 10.1146/annurev.micro.091208.073353

    View details for PubMedID 19575562

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3821760