Heather Bruns

Heather Bruns

Professor of Biology


Room:CL 171D

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Indiana University School of Medicine, Ph.D. (2003), Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Indiana University-Purdue University, M.S. Biology
Indiana University B.S. Biochemistry (1997)

Research Interests

Over the past 11 years, I have established an immunology program with diverse research components. Members of my lab have investigated the effects of broad spectrum antibiotics and mucosal integrity on oral tolerance, alterations in B and T lymphocyte functions by the herb Lonicera japonica, and the effects of simvastatin on immune responses following primary and secondary infections with Staphyloccocus aureus. Currently, the overarching goal of the research in my labs is to examine the effect of herbal and natural medicinal therapies on immune function.


Specific Goal: Investigate the effect of the food additive, red yeast rice (RYR), on innate and adaptive immune cell activation and functions. RYR is derived from the fermentation of rice by Monascus purpureus (red yeast) and has been used for the treatment of dyslipidemia, coronary heart disease, diabetes, bone formation and liver disease. The health benefits resulting from RYR are likely due to the presence of metabolic byproducts of the fermentation, specifically a family of seven monacolin analogues, one of which is monacolin K, commercially produced as lovastatin. Statins are a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs that are also known to have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties. Given the ability of RYR to lower cholesterol levels (through the action of the monacolin family members), current research in my lab is focused on investigating the immunomodulatory properties that RYR may possess.

In our research:

  • We examine the activation, gene expression, and functions of several cells of the immune system (following a variety of stimulations and treatments.
  • We employ both cell culture and murine model systems.
  • We utilize many immuno-based assays – predominantly flow cytometry – to assess alterations in cellular activation, gene expression, and function.
  • We collaborate with investigators in the Departments of Biology and Chemistry

Honors and Experience

2015 – Current Course Director, Medical Microbiology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Muncie, IN
2013 – Current Coordinator of Undergraduate Programs, Executive Council Member, Autumn Immunology Conference
2013  Recipient of the Indiana Branch of the American Society for Microbiology Academic Teaching Award
2006 – 2012 Secretary, Indiana Academy of Science
2005 – Current Member, Indiana Academy of Science
2003 – Current Member, American Association of Immunologists
2003 – Current Member, Indiana Branch of the American Society for Microbiology


Smelser L. K., Walker, C., Burns E. M., Curry, M., Black, N., Metzler J. A., McDowell S. A., Bruns H. A. (2016) Short term, low dose simvastatin pretreatment alters memory immune function following secondary Staphylococcus aureus infection. Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. In press.

Curry M., Brooks A., Bruns H. A. (2015) The effect of Lonicera japonica on LPS-stimulated B cells functions. Journal of Herbs, Spices & Medicinal Plants. In press.

Diana Cordero, Christopher R. Fullenkamp, Rachel R. Pelly, Katie M. Reed, Lindy M. Caffo, Ashley N. Zahrt, Micaleah Newman, Sarah Komanapalli, Evan M. Niemeier, Derron L. Bishop, Heather A. Bruns, Mark K. Haynes, Larry A. Sklar, Robert E. Sammelson, and Susan A. McDowell. (2014) Small Molecule Inhibitors Limit Endothelial Cell Invasion by Staphylococcus aureus. Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. 15(8), 727-37.

Glosson-Byers, N. L., Sehra, S., Stritesky, G. L., Yu, Q., Awe, O., Pham, D., Bruns, H. A., Kaplan, M. H. (2014) Th17 cells demonstrate stable cytokine production in a pro-allergic environment. Journal of Immunology. Journal of Immunology. 193: 2631-2640.

Kinder, J. M., Then, J. E., Hansel, P. M., Molinero, L. L., Bruns, H. A. (2014) Extended use of intragastric gavage hinders oral tolerance induction to ovalbumin in mice. Comparative Medicine. 64(5): 1-8.

Brooks, A., Jonkman, J., Bookmyer, Z., Bruns, H. A. (2014). Lonicera japonica alters antigen-stimulated T cell functions. International Journal of Herbal Medicine, 2(1): 13-20.DeWalt, R. I., Petkovich, D. A., Zahrt, A. N., Bruns, H. A., McDowell, S. A. (2013). Host cell invasion by Staphylococcus aureus stimulates the shedding of microvesicles. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 432(4), 695-700.

Sydney E. Lambert*, Jeremy M. Kinder*, Jenny E. Then*, Kelly N. Parliament*, Heather A. Bruns. Erythromycin treatment hinders the induction of oral tolerance to fed ovalbumin. (2012) Frontiers in Mucosal Immunity. 3:203. Epub 2012 Jul 18.

Nicole L. Glosson, Heather A. Bruns, Mark H. Kaplan. Wheezing and Itching: The Requirement for STAT proteins in Allergic Inflammation. (2011) JAK-STAT. 1(1):3-12.

Erin M. Burns, Lisa K. Smelser, Jenny E. Glassburn, Traci E. Stankiewicz, Michael Kushdilian, Susan A. McDowell, Heather A. Bruns. Short term simvastatin treatment improves survival and differentially regulates macrophage-mediated responses to Staphylococcus aureus infection. (2012) Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. 2013 Feb;14(2):233-41.

Stankiewicz TE; Haaning KL; Owens JM; Jordan AS; Gammon K; Bruns HA; McDowell SA. GTPase activating protein function of p85 facilitates uptake and recycling of the ß1 integrin. (2010) Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 391(1):443-448. PMCID19914208, NIHMSID159208

Crane (maiden name: Lewis) ED, Stephenson N, Haffner C, Bruns HA. Active Immune Response Protects Stat6VT Transgenic Mice from Developing a Lymphoproliferative Disorder. (2009) Immunobiology. 215(7):579-585.

Sehra S, Bruns HA, Ahyi N, Nguyen E, Schmidt NE, Michels EG, von Bulow G-U, Kaplan MH. IL-4 is a critical determinant in the generation of Allergic Inflammation in Constitutively Active Stat6 transgenic mice. (2008) Journal of Immunology. 2008 March 1; 180(5):3551-9.

Kaplan MH, Sehra S, Chang H-C, O’Malley JT, Mathur AN, Bruns HA. Constitutively active Stat6 predisposes towards a lymphoproliferative disorder. (2007) Blood 110(13):4367-9.

Thieu VT, Nguyen ET, McCarthy BP, Bruns HA, Kapur R, Chang H-C and Kaplan MH. IL-4 stimulated NF-κB activity is required for Stat6 DNA binding. (2007) J Leuk Biol. 82(2): 370-9.

Bruns HA, Kaplan MH. The Role of Constitutively Active Stat6 Proteins in Leukemia and Lymphoma. (2006) Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology 57: 245-253.

Chang H-C, Zhang S, Thieu VT, Slee RB, Bruns HA, Laribee RN, Klemsz MJ, Kaplan MH. PU.1 expression delineates heterogeneity in primary Th2 cells. (2005) Immunity, 22: 693-703.

Bruns HA, Schindler U, Kaplan MH. Expression of a Constitutively Active Stat6 in vivo Alters Lymphocyte Homeostasis with Distinct Effects in T and B Cells. (2003) Journal of Immunology, 170: 3478-3487.

Broxmeyer HE, Bruns HA, Zhang S, Cooper S, Hangoc G, McKenzie AN, Dent AL, Schindler U, Naeger LK, Hoey T, and Kaplan MH. Th1 Cells Regulate Hematopoietic Progenitor Cell Homeostasis by Production of Oncostatin M. (2002) Immunity, 16: 815-825.

Lawless VA, Zhang S, Ozes ON, Bruns HA, Oldham IL, Hoey T, Grusby MJ and Kaplan MH. Stat4 Regulates Multiple Components of IFNγ-Inducing Signaling Pathways. (2000) Journal of Immunology, 165: 6803-6808.

Course Schedule
Course No. Section Times Days Location
Immunology 636 800 0000 - 0000