Valerie Cortez

Valerie Cortez

Assistant Professor of MCD Biology

B.S. Biology, Texas A&M University

M.S. Public Health Epidemiology, University of Washington

Ph.D. Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Washington

Fogarty Fellow, U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit-6

Postdoctorate, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital


The Cortez Lab studies mucosal microbiology and immunology, with research focused on astroviruses, non-enveloped enteric RNA viruses that infect birds and mammals. Globally, human-infecting astroviruses are a major cause of diarrheal illness in young children, but little is known about their pathogenesis. We use in vitro and the in vivo models to study their host-microbe interactions in the gut. Using a murine model, we discovered that astrovirus infects goblet cells, which are specialized epithelial cells that produce a mucus barrier that protects the intestinal epithelium. We are interested in understanding how astroviruses establish infection in goblet cells and their role in regulating gut immunity. Our goal is to understand the host and virus factors that dictate astrovirus disease and to use astrovirus to explore goblet cell biology.

We are currently focused on the following questions:

1) What molecular mechanisms mediate the cellular tropism(s) of astrovirus?

2) How does astrovirus alter goblet cell functions, including mucus secretion and crosstalk with immune cells?

3) Because the incidence of astrovirus infection is highest in young children, what role do astroviruses play in the development of mucosal immunity?

Please follow this link to find the lab's publications in the National Library of Medicine's PubMed database.