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Natalia Von Muhlinen, PhD

Academic Title:

Visiting Assistant Professor

Primary Appointment:



100 Penn Street, Room 405b Baltimore, 21201, MD

Education and Training

Education and training:

National University of Cordoba, BS, Chemistry, 2008

University of Cambridge, PhD, Molecular Biology, 2012

National Institutes of Health, Postdoctoral Fellow, Cancer Research, 2019


Dr. von Muhlinen is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Pathology Department who is working on understanding the association between the tumor-associated lung microbiome and lung cancer. Dr. von Muhlinen's early contributions to science focused on cellular autonomous immunity against intracellular pathogens. Her work was one of the first studies that uncovered how autophagy selectively targets and eliminates cytosol-invading bacterial pathogens in mammalian host cells, via the previously unknown autophagy receptor NDP52. Her work was essential to further understand host-pathogen interactions and provided a novel mechanism of cellular antibacterial defense. Her postdoctoral work focused on unraveling novel mechanisms by which TP53, the most mutated gene in cancer, and its isoforms contribute to aging and cancer. 

Currently, Dr. von Muhlinen's work is combining her expertise in microbiology and molecular biology to unravel the bacterial species and strains that are associated with lung cancer and the molecular mechanisms by which these microbes contribute to the progression of the disease. In a recent study that Dr. von Muhlinen co-published with her colleagues, they analyzed the lung mucosal-associated microbiota composition of lung cancer patients in two independent cohorts that included a case-control study conducted at the University of Maryland Baltimore and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) lung cancer database. They discovered a lower ecological diversity within samples in the normal lung compared to non-tumor adjacent or tumor tissue, and that the bacterial genus Acidovorax sp., present in tobacco cigarettes, is enriched in lung cancer tissue derived from the two most common lung cancer types, adenocarcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma, compared to non-adjacent tissue. Dr. von Muhlinen's work is currently focused on characterizing the bacterial strains, including those of Acidovorax, associated with lung cancer, exploring the involvement of the microbiome in driving tumorigenesis and the role of the microbiome-host relationship in lung cancer inflammation and its association with response to therapy.  This work will help further understand how microbes contribute to lung cancer and will aid in developing novel biomarkers of lung cancer diagnosis and prognosis. 

Research/Clinical Keywords

Lung Cancer, Microbiome, Inflammation, Lung Microbiome, Acidovorax, Bacteria, Microbiology, Biomarkers

Highlighted Publications

Thurston T. L. M., Ryzhakov G., Bloor S., von Muhlinen N. and Randow F. (2009). “The TBK1 adaptor and autophagy receptor NDP52 restricts the proliferation of ubiquitin-coated bacteria”Nat Immunol, 11: 1215-21.

von Muhlinen N., Akutsu M., Ravenhill B. J., Foeglein A., Bloor S., Rutherford T. J., Freund S. M. V., Komander D. and Randow F. (2012). “LC3C, bound selectively by a non-canonical LIR motif in NDP52, is required for anti-bacterial autophagy”. Mol Cell, 48: 329-342.

von Muhlinen N., Horikawa I., Alam F., Vojtesek B., Lane D. P. and Harris C. C. (2018). p53 isoforms regulate premature aging in human cells. Oncogene, 37: 2379–2393.

Greathouse L., White J. R., Vargas A. J., Bliskovsky V. B., Beck J. A., von Muhlinen N., et al., Harris C. C. (2018). Microbiome-TP53 Gene Interaction in Human Lung Cancer. Genome Biology, 19: 123-139.

Turnquist C., Beck J.A., Horikawa I., Obiorah E.I., Vojtesek B., Lane D.P., von Muhlinen N., Grunseich C., Chahine J.J., Ames H.M., Smart D.D., Harris B.T., Harris C.C. (2019). Radiation-induced astrocyte senescence is rescued by Δ133p53: implications for cancer therapy. Neuro-Oncology. 21(4):474-48.

Research Interests

Dr. von Muhlinen is interested in cancer research, lung cancer research, lung microbiome, inflammation, biomarkers research. 

Awards and Affiliations


2016                            FARE Travel Award, National Institutes of Health, 2016

2015                            Federal Technology Transfer Award, National Institutes of Health, 2015 

2012                            Max Perutz Research Award (Outstanding PhD Thesis), LMB, Cambridge, UK

2010                            Best Poster Presentation, Cambridge Immunology Forum, 2010.

2006-2007                   Honor Student University of Cordoba, Argentina

2006-2008                   Honor Student Faculty of Chemistry, University of Cordoba, Argentina



2013- 2019               NIH Visiting Fellow Fellowship, awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH, USA) to perform research at the Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis (LHC), National Cancer Institute (NCI)

2008-2012                Cesar Milstein Scholarship, awarded by the Darwin Trust of Edinburgh to complete a PhD thesis at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (Cambridge, UK)

2007                         CEAL Scholarship, awarded to one outstanding student of the National University of    Cordoba to complete their undergraduate studies at the Autonomous University of Madrid (Madrid, Spain)



American Association for Cancer Research, 2013-2019

Fellow and Young Investigators Association 2013-2018