Balbina J. Plotkin, Ph.D.

Downers Grove, IL

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My program of research broadly covers the areas of anaerobic tumor cell metabolism and microbiome polymicrobial and hormone interactions. My lab together with that of Dr. Sigar pioneered the method for growing mammalian cells in the complete absence of oxygen. This is an important breakthough since the center of tumors is anaerobic and preliminary findings indicate that the metabolic plasticity exemplified by anaerobic tumor cell growth also affects drug susceptibility. We are moving forward towards characterization of the pathways involved and correlating these with drug susceptibility towards the goal of identification of new cancer drug targets.

In addition to the mammalian cell work, as a Microbiologist I am also examining two facets of host pathogen interactions which my lab also pioneered, namely polymicrobial interactions and microbial response to human insulin. In the former, we developed a system that examines the role herpes simplex virus plays in regulation of microbiome initiation. In the latter, we defined the impact insulin has on the establishment of biofilms, such as those that can develop on teeth, in typanosomy tubes (middle ear infections) and replacement joints. In addition, the response of these biofilms to antibiotic treatments is also determined.


Downers Grove, IL

Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine
College of Dental Medicine-Illinois
College of Health Sciences - IL
College of Graduate Studies - IL

Microbiology & Immunology

Biomedical Sciences (M.A.)
Biomedical Sciences (M.B.S.)
Dental Medicine
Osteopathic Medicine

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Loyloa | 1992 | M.Ed.
Tennessee | 1982 | Ph.D.

Courses Taught

Infectious Diseases for Medical, Dental, Pharmacy and Physician Assistant Students

Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine for Medical and Physician Assistant Students 


My research broadly involves organismal phenotypic stress response and behavioral plasticity. My current research is an application of knowledge gleaned from developing ways to promote microbial and cancer cell adaptation to high stress anaerobic environments, such as those located in the lumens of the gastrointestinal tract, middle ear and mucosal surfaces. 


  1. Wang, Sheila K; Gilchrist, Annette; Loukitcheva, Anastasia; Plotkin, Balbina J; Sigar, Ira M; Gross, Alan E; O'Donnell, J Nicholas; Pettit, Natasha; Buros, Amy; O'Driscoll, Tristan; Rhodes, Nathaniel J; Bethel, Cindy; Segreti, John; Charnot-Katsikas, Angella; Singh, Kamaljit; Scheetz, Marc H. Prevalence of a Cefazolin Inoculum Effect Associated with blaZ Gene Types among Methicillin-Susceptible Staphylococcus aureus Isolates from Four Major Medical Centers in Chicago. 2018  Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 62  10.1128/AAC.00382-18 PubMed ID: 29891607
  2. Plotkin, Balbina J; Sigar, Ira M; Swartzendruber, Julie A; Kaminski, Amber; Davis, James. Differential expression of cytokines and receptor expression during anoxic growth. 2018 BMC Research Notes: 11: 406. DOI: 10.1186/s13104-018-3520-5
  3. Plotkin BJ, Sigar IM, Swartzendruber JA, Kaminski A. Anaerobic Growth and Maintenance of Mammalian Cell Lines. JoVE. 2018(137):e58049. doi: doi:10.3791/58049
  4. Michael W Patt, Lisa Conte, Mary Blaha and Balbina J Plotkin.. Steroid hormones as interkingdom signaling molecules: Innate immune function and microbial colonization modulation 2018.AIMS Molecular Science, 5(1): 96–109
  5. Plotkin, BJ   Host factors, the “Simon Says” for microbial biofilms. 2017 Atlas of Science June 13, 2017
  6. Plotkin Balbina J. and Monika I. Konakieva. Attenuation of antimicrobial activity by the human steroid hormones. Steroids, Volume 128, December 2017, Pages 120-127
  7. Plotkin BJ., James W. Davis, Luigi Strizzi, Peter Lee, Jayme Celbi-Christensen, Orlando Rivero, Brent Ito Ira M. Sigar A method for the long-term cultivation of mammalian cells in the absence of oxygen: Characterization of cell replication, hypoxia-inducible factor expression and reactive oxygen species production 2018 Tissue and Cell, Volume 50, February, Pages 59-68 
  8. Feraco D, Blaha M, Khan S, Green JM, Plotkin BJ. Host environmental signals and effects on biofilm formation. 2016 Microbial Pathogenesis. Oct 31;99:253-63.
  9. BJ Plotkin.. Not in my neighborhood- herpes simplex virus control of microbiome locality 2016. Atlas of Science
  10. BJ Plotkin Contribution of Host Signaling and Virome to the Mycobiome. 2016 Fungal Genom Biol, 6:1
  11. Plotkin BJ, Sigar IM, Tiwari V, Halkyard S. Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Modulation of Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans Initiation of HeLa 299 Cell-Associated Biofilm. 2016 Curr Microbiol.;72:529-37.
  12. Plotkin, BJ, Sigar IM, Tiwari, V, Halkyard, S. Determination of biofilm initiation on virus-infected cells by bacteria and fungi. 2016 JoVE,. 113: e54162.  DOI: 10.3791/54162
  13. Plotkin, Balbina J., Thomas Hatakeyama, Zheng Ma. Antimicrobial Susceptibility and Sub-MIC Biofilm Formation of Moraxella catarrhalis Clinical Isolates under Anaerobic Conditions. Epup ahead of print. 2015.AiM. DOI: 10.4236/aim.2015.54022
  14. Tim N. Beck, Dina Lloyd, Rostislav Kuskovsky, Jeanette Minah, Kriti Arora, Balbina J. Plotkin, Jacalyn M. Green, Helena I. Boshoff, Clifton Barry III, Jeffrey Deschamps, Monika I. Konaklieva. Non-Transpeptidase binding arylthioether beta-Lactams active against Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Moraxella catarrhalis. 2015 Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry 23: 632-647 DOI: 10.1016/j.bmc.2014.11.025
  15. Kirby, D. Savage, J. and Plotkin, B. Menaquinone (Vitamin K2) Enhancement of Staphylococcus aureus Biofilm Formation. 2014. Journal of Biosciences and Medicines, 2, 26-32. doi: 10.4236/jbm.2014.21004.
  16. Balbina J. Plotkin, Zi Jian Wu, Kathleen Ward, Shaven Nadella, Jacalyn M. Green, and Benny Rumnani. Open J Urology. Effect of Human Insulin on the Formation of Catheter-Associated E. coli Biofilms. 2014. Open Journal of Urology 4: 49-56.
  17. Lau, D, Plotkin BJ, Antimicrobial and biofilm effects of herbs used in traditional Chinese Medicine. 2013 Natural Product Communications 8 (11): 1617-1620.
  18. Kirby DT, Raino CJ, Rabor Jr. SF, Wasson CJ, Plotkin BJ Semi-Automated method for multi-tasking measurement of microbial growth, capsule, and biofilm formation. 2012 AiM 2:623-628. DOI: 10.4236/aim.2012.24081