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Daniel Bretl

Assistant Professor
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

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Daniel Bretl

Assistant Professor


Specialty area(s)

Bacterial Genetics; Cellular Signaling

Current courses at UWL

MIC230 - Fundamentals of Microbiology

MIC416/516 - Prokaryotic Molecular Genetics

MIC460 - Research Deconstruction

MIC714 - Advanced Genetics



PhD (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) - Medical College of Wisconsin

MS (Microbiology) - UW-La Crosse

BS (Biology) - UW-Stevens Point


Professional history

2019-Present Assistant Professor of Microbiology - University of Wisconsin-La Crosse       

2018-2019      Lecturer - University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Waukesha

2014-2019      Postdoctoral Fellow - University of Iowa and Medical College of Wisconsin

Research and publishing

My research interests revolve around how bacteria sense their environment to coordinate cellular responses. In other words, I'm interested in how bacteria "know" what to do and when to do it. To study these systems, my lab employs several genetic and biochemical techniques.

More specifically, I study the role of a particular type of signaling system known as a two-component signaling system. These systems are found in all bacteria and are critical to their lifecycle and behaviors. To study two-component systems, my research utilizes the bacterial species Myxococcus xanthus. This is a fascinating species that is found in the soil and has complex social behaviors that include cooperative motility, microbial predation, and multi-cellular development.

Selected recent publications (* = undergraduate):

  1. Bretl, D.J., A. Elfessi, H. Watkins, W.R. Schwan. 2019. Regulation of the superantigen-like protein 1 gene of community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in murine abscesses. Toxins. 11, 391.
  2. Bretl, D.J., K.M. Ladd*, S.N. Atkinson, S. Muller, and J.R. Kirby. Suppressor Mutations Reveal an NtrC-like Response Regulator, NmpR, for Modulation of Type-IV Pili-Dependent Motility in Myxococcus xanthus. 2018. PloS Genetics. 14(10):e1007714.
  3. Bretl, D.J., and J.R. Kirby. 2016. Molecular mechanisms of signaling in Myxococcus xanthus J. of Mol Biol. 428(19):3805-30. Review.
  4. Bretl, D.J., S. Muller, K.M. Ladd*, S.N. Atkinson, and J.R. Kirby. 2016. Type IV-pili Dependent Motility is Co-regulated by PilSR and PilS2R2 Two-component Systems via Distinct Pathways in Myxococcus xanthus. Mol. Microbiol. 102(1):37-53.
  5. Armstrong, R.M., K.L. Adams, J.E. Zilisch, J. Bretl, H. Sato, D.M. Anderson, and T.C. Zahrt. 2016. Rv2744c is a PspA ortholog that regulates lipid droplet homeostasis and non-replicating persistence in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. J of Bacteriol. 198(11):1645-1661.
  6. Kommineni, S., J. Bretl, V. Lam, R. Chakraborty, M. Hayward, P. Simpson, Y. Cao, P Bousounis, C.J. Kristich, and N.H. Salzman. 2015. Bacteriocin production augments niche competition by enterococci in the mammalian gastrointestinal tract. Nature. 526(7575):719-722.
  7. Bretl, D.J., T.M. Bigley, S.S. Terhune, and T.C. Zahrt. 2014. The MprB extracytoplasmic domain negatively regulates activation of the Mycobacterium tuberculosisMprAB two-component system. Bacteriol. 196:391-406.
  8. Bretl, D.J., and T.C Zahrt. 2013. Regulation of envelope stress responses by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In L Vasil and A.J. Darwin (ed.),Regulation of bacterial virulence, American Society for Microbiology, Washington, D.C.
  9. Bretl, D.J., H. He, C. Demetriadou, M.J. White, R.M. Penoske, N.H. Salzman, and T.C. Zahrt. 2012. MprA and DosR coregulate a Mycobacterium tuberculosis virulence operon encoding Rv1813c and Rv1812c. Infect Immun. 80:3018-3033.
  10. Bretl, D.J., C. Demetriadou, and T.C. Zahrt. 2011. Adaptation to environmental stimuli within the host: two-component signal transduction systems of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 75:566-582.
  11. He, H., J. Bretl, R.M. Penoske, D.M. Anderson, and T.C. Zahrt. 2011. Components of the Rv0081-Rv0088 locus, which encodes a predicted formate hydrogenlyase complex, are coregulated by Rv0081, MprA, and DosR in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. J Bacteriol. 193:5105-5118.
  12. White, M.J., J.P. Savaryn, J. Bretl, H. He, R.M. Penoske, S.S. Terhune, and T.C. Zahrt. 2011. The HtrA-like serine protease PepD interacts with and modulates the Mycobacterium tuberculosis 35-kDa antigen outer envelope protein. PloS One. 6:e18175.



Lee Baines and Markus Mika, both Biology; Linda Dickmeyer, Communication Studies; Darci Thoune, English; Naghmeh Gheidi, Exercise & Sport Science; Daniel Bretl, Microbiology; Kamilo Lara, Military Science, ROTC; Seth King, Physics; Brian Kumm-Schaley, Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation; and Jane Brannan, Veteran Services; received a UWL Challenge Coin at the Stole & Recognition Ceremony on Friday, May 6 in La Crosse, WI. Students presented a challenge coin to the staff or faculty member of their choosing in recognition of the impact the staff/faculty had on their academic career. Challenge Coins are an enduring military tradition. Military Commanders often give a coin to service members as a mark of camaraderie or to recognize hard work and excellence. They are intended to instill unit pride, improve esprit-de-corps, and serve as a reward for a job well done. A challenge coin signifies the person went above and beyond in their duties.

Submitted on: May 6, 2022