Dr. Marianna Kulka

Dr. Marianna Kulka, PhD

Adjunct Professor, Research Officer/Project Leader

National Research Council
Institute for Nanotechnology
780-641-1601 (fax)


  • BSc, University of Calgary
  • BA, University of Calgary
  • PhD, University of Alberta
  • Post-doctoral fellowship, National Institutes of Health

Research Interests

Dr. Kulka researches skin immunology and the pathophysiological conditions associated with abnormal skin responses. The skin is our largest organ and many therapies for complex human diseases such as cancer, diabetes and asthma begin with the skin. She focuses on both the structural microenvironment and immune cells in the skin to design bioactive compounds that can increase skin regeneration, elasticity, permeability, and resistance to infection. Models created with this research allow for rapid and cost effective testing of compounds for their ability to influence skin health for normal healthy skin, and injured or inflamed skin.

Human mast cells observed under a light microscope. (100x)

Her second major research focus is allergic inflammation and the role of allergic effector cells in atopic diseases such as dermatitis, asthma, rhinitis and conjunctivitis. This research program has focused on the specific allergic effector cells that produce histamine, arachidonic acid metabolites and pro-inflammatory cytokines and the surface immunoglobulin and G protein-coupled receptors that are responsible. This research has identified signaling pathways, tested potential therapeutic compounds, and identified bioactives that disrupt these pathways. Currently, she is adapting nanoparticles to influence the function of these cells in the skin and mucosal environment. She is particularly interested in silver nanoparticles and their ability to modify the skin immune environment. Dr. Kulka’s lab is also looking at how nanoparticles composed of polyunsaturated fatty acids can modify cell membranes and modify receptor shuttling to lipid microdomains.

An illustration of silver nanoparticles.

Highlighted Publications

Catalli, M. Kulka. 2010. Chitin and β-Glucan Polysaccharides as Immunomodulators of Airway Inflammation and Atopic Disease. Recent Patents on Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Drug Discovery. 4:175-189. Invited review.

B.P. Tancowny, V. Karpov, R.P. Schleimer and M. Kulka. 2010. Substance P primes lipoteichoic acid- and Pam3CysSerLys4-mediated activation of human mast cells by upregulating TLR2. Immunology. 2010. 131(2):220-30

M. Kulka and D. Metcalfe. 2010. Isolation of Tissue Mast Cells. Current Protocols in Immunology. Aug; Chapter 7:Unit 7.25.

P. Pundir and M. Kulka. 2010. The role of G-protein coupled receptors in mast cell activation by antimicrobial peptides: is there a connection? Immunology and Cell Biology. 2010. 88(6):632-40.

M. Kulka. 2009. The potential of natural products as effective treatments for allergic inflammation: implications for allergic rhinitis. Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry. 9:1611-1624. Invited review.

C. McCary, B. P. Tancowny, A. Catalli, C. Sheen, L. C. Grammer, K. E. Harris, R. P. Schleimer and M. Kulka. 2009. Substance P downregulates expression of the high affinity IgE receptor (FcRI) by human mast cells. Journal of Neuroimmunology.. 220(1-2):17-24.

M. Kulka, N. Fukuishi, D. D. Metcalfe. 2009. Human mast cells synthesize and release angiogenin in response to toll-like receptor activation and co-incubation with E. coli. Journal of Leukocyte Biology. 86: 1217-1226.

Kato, T. Ogasawara, M. Kulka, H. Saito, R. P. Schleimer, K. Matsumoto. 2009. Dexamethasone and FK506 inhibit expression of distinct subsets of chemokines in human mast cells. Journal of Immunology. 182: 7233 - 7243. 

S. Kirshenbaum, E. J. Swindle, M. Kulka, Y. Wu, D. D. Metcalfe. 2008. Effect of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and peptidoglycan (PGN) on human mast cell numbers, cytokine production, and protease composition. BMC Immunology, 9:45.

M. Kulka, C. Sheen, L. C. Grammer, R. P. Schleimer. 2008. Neuropeptides activate human mast cell degranulation and chemokine production. Immunology. 123:398-410. 

H. Sheen, R.P. Schleimer, and M. Kulka. 2007. Codeine induces human mast cell chemokine and cytokine production: involvement of G-protein activation. Allergy. 62:532-8.

M. Kulka, Metcalfe DD. 2006. TLR3 activation inhibits human mast cell attachment to fibronectin and vitronectin. Molecular Immunology. 43:1579-86. 

M. Kulka, N. Fukuishi, M. Rottem, Y.A. Mekori and D.D. Metcalfe. 2006. Mast cells which interact with Escherichia coli upregulate genes associated with innate immunity and become less responsive to FcRI-mediated activation. Journal of Leukocyte Biology 79:339-50. 

M. Kulka, R. Dery, D. Nahirney, M Duszyk, A.D.Befus. 2005. Differential Regulation of CFTR by Interferon- in Mast Cells and Epithelial Cells. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 315:563-70.

M. Kulka, and D.D. Metcalfe. 2005. High resolution tracking of cell division demonstrates differential effects of Th1 and Th2 cytokines on SCF-dependent human mast cell production in vitro: correlation with apoptosis and Kit expression. Blood. 105:592-9. 


  • NRC Outstanding Achievement Award, 2010
  • NRC Outstanding Mentoring Award, 2010
  • American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology Interest Section Award, 2006

Current Sources of Funding

  • CIHR Canada/China Joint Research Initiative Grant, 2013-2016

Current Research Personnel

  • Priyanka Pundir, Graduate Student at UPEI
  • Xiaofeng Wang, Graduate Student at UPEI
  • Clayton MacDonald, Technical Officer at NINT