Find Faculty Members at MUSC.

Ozlem Yilmaz DDS, PhD


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  • Professor
  • College of Dental Medicine
  • Oral Health Sciences
Academic Focus
  • Microbe-Host Interaction
  • Periodontal Diseases
  • Oral and Chronic Systemic Diseases Association
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Office Location


Click Below for Dr. Yilmaz' Lab Website:


Özlem Yilmaz, DDS, PhD


Department of Oral Health Sciences



Ph.D., University of Washington

D.D.S., Istanbul University


Professional Experience:

2016-present: Professor, Medical University of South Carolina, and Director, Center for Oral Health Clinical Research

2016-present: Joint Professor, Microbiology and Immunology

2010–2015: Associate Professor, University of Florida

2006-2010: Assistant Professor, University of Florida

2002-2006: Post-Doctoral Senior Fellow, University of Washington, School of Public Health & Community Medicine

2003: Visiting Scholar, Biologie Moléculaire du Géne, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France


Honors and Professional Activities (Most Recent)

2017: Overseas Fellow, The Royal Society of Medicine, England

2014: University of Florida Research Foundation Professor

2013–2019:  Member of NIH Oral, Dental and Craniofacial Diseases (ODCS) Study Panel

2013: Fellow, Clinical Translational Science Institute, Academy of Research Excellence in Human Subjects, University of Florida, College of Medicine

2012: Fellow, Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM), Drexel College of Medicine 

2012 to present: Academic Editor, PLOS ONE

2013 to present: Associate Editor, Molecular Oral Microbiology

2015: Guest Editor, Microbes and Infection

2017 to present: Associate Editor, Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology

2018 to present: Editorial board, Journal of Oral Microbiology

2018 to present: Editorial Board, Scientific Reports

2019 to present: Editorial Board, Cells

2020 to present:Editorial Board Member, Current Research in Microbial Sciences


Main Research Interests

Dr. Yilmaz' research focuses on opportunistic bacteria and host interaction. Her lab is particularly interested in the molecular underpinnings of a major oral pathogen, Porphyromonas gingivalis for its evasion of host cell anti-microbial response and survival in the gingival epithelial mucosa using human primary cell systems and transgenic mouse-models. Dr. Yilmaz' lab research is uniquely dedicated to uncover the complex interplay between host epithelium and periodontopathic bacteria in the induction of microbial dysbiosis and pathophysiology at oral mucosa. Chronic infection by P. gingivalis, a major invasive bacterium, can specifically contribute to a series of severe chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and orodigestive cancers. Investigating the cellular persistence of this pathogen within host can lead to development of rational treatment strategies for P. gingivalis associated diseases.



Selected Recent Publications


Lee, JS, Yilmaz, O (2020) “Key Elements of Gingival Epithelial Homeostasis upon Bacterial Interaction”, Invited Review, Critical Reviews in Oral Biology & Medicine Section, J of Dental Res (In Press)


Lee, JS, Chowdhury N, Roberts, JS, and Yilmaz O (2020). Host surface ectonucleotidase-CD73 and the opportunistic pathogen, Porphyromonas gingivalis, cross-modulation underlies a new homeostatic mechanism for chronic bacterial survival in human epithelial cells. Virulence. 11:414-429.


Lee J, Spooner R, Chowdhury N, Pandey V, Wellslager B, Atanasova K, Evans Z, Yilmaz O (2020). In Situ Intraepithelial Localizations of Opportunistic Pathogens, Porphyromonas gingivalis and Filifactor alocis, in Human Gingiva. Current Research in Microbial Sciences. 1, 7-17. 10.1016/j.crmicr.2020.05.001.


Olsen I and Yilmaz O (2019). Possible role of Porphyromonas gingivalis in orodigestive cancers. J Oral Microbiol. Jan 9;11(1):1563410. doi: 10.1080/20002297.2018.1563410. eCollection 2019.


Lee K, Roberts JS, Choi C, Atanasova KR, Yilmaz O (2018) Porphyromonas gingivalis Traffics into Endoplasmic Reticulum-Rich-Autophagosomes for Successful Survival in Human Gingival Epithelial Cells, Virulence  April 4:126.doi:10.1080/21505594.2018.1454171


Lee J, Roberts JS, Atanasova KR, Chowdhury N and Yilmaz O (2018) A Novel Kinase Function of a Nucleoside-diphosphate-kinase Homolog in P.  gingivalis is Critical in Subversion of Host Cell Apoptosis by Targeting Heat-Shock Protein 27,Cellular Microbiology, Jan 22.doi:10.1111/cmi.12825


Lee JS, Yilmaz O (2018) Unfolding Role of a Danger Molecule Adenosine Signaling in Modulation of Infection and Host Cell Response. Invited Review, Special Issue: Purinergic Signalling in Cancer and Inflammation, Int. J. Mol. Sci. 19(1), 199; doi:10.3390/ijms19010199.


Lee J, Roberts JS, Atanasova KR, Han K, Chowdhury N, and Yilmaz O (2017) Human Primary Epithelial Cells Acquire an Epithelial-Mesenchymal-Transition Phenotype during Long-term Infection by the Oral Opportunistic Pathogen, Porphyromonas gingivalis. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiol.  Dec 1;7:493. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2017.00493.


Roberts JS, Atanasova KR, Lee J, Diamond G, Deguzman JV, Choi CH, and Yilmaz O (2017), “Opportunistic Pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis Modulates Danger Signal ATP-mediated Antibacterial NOX2 Pathways in Primary Epithelial Cells”. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiol 2017 Jul 4;7:291. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2017.00291. 


Spooner R, Weigel K, Harrison PL, Lee KL, Cangelosi G, and Yilmaz O (2016) In situ Anabolic Activity of Periodontal Pathogens Porphyromonas gingivalis And Filifactor alocis In Chronic Periodontitis. Scientific Reports 6, 33638; doi: 10.1038/srep33638.


Atanasova K, Lee J, Roberts J, Lee K , David M Ojcius, Yilmaz O (2016) Nucleoside-Diphosphate-Kinase of P. gingivalis is Secreted from Epithelial Cells In the Absence of a Leader Sequence Through a Pannexin-1 Interactome, Scientific Reports, 6, 37643; doi:10.1038/srep37643


Bui FQ, Johnson L, Roberts JS, Hung SC, Lee JN, Atanasova KR, Huang PR, Yilmaz O, and Ojcius DM (2016) Fusobacterium nucleatum Infection of Gingival Epithelial Cells Leads to NLRP3 Inflammasome-Dependent Secretion of the Danger Signals ASC and HMGB1.  Cellular Microbiology, Jul;18(7):97081. 


Morandini AC, Santos FC, Yilmaz O (2016), “Role of Epigenetics in Modulation of Immune Response At the Junction of Host Pathogen Interaction and Danger Molecule Signaling” Pathogens & Disease, DOI: 10.1093/femspd/ftw082.


Olsen I, Yilmaz O (2016), “Modulation of Inflammasome activity by Porphyromonas gingivalis in Periodontitis and Associated Systemic Diseases”, Journal of Oral Microbiology, Feb 4;8:30385. 


Roberts JS, Yilmaz O (2015), “Dangerous Liaisons: Caspase-11 and Reactive Oxygen Species Crosstalk in Pathogen Elimination”, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 16 (10):23337-54.


Atanasova K R and Yilmaz O (2015), “Prelude to Oral Microbes and Chronic Diseases: Past, Present and Future”, Microbes & Infection, Special Issue on Oral Microbes,17(7):473-83. 


Lee KL, Yilmaz O (2015) “The Inflammasome and Danger Molecule Signaling: At the Crossroads of Inflammation and Pathogen Persistence in the Oral Cavity”, Periodontology 2000, Vol 69, 83 95. 


Atanasova KR, Yilmaz O (2014) “Looking in the Porphyromonas gingivalis Cabinet of Curiosities:  The Microbium, the Host and Cancer Association" Molecular Oral Microbiology 29: 55-66.



Selected Book Chapters and Editorials


Atanasova, KR, Yilmaz, O (2021) Chapter "Inflammasome activation in gingival epithelial cells” for an edition on “The Inflammasome", in the lab protocol series Methods in Molecular Biology, Invited, Edited by Ali A Sater,  Springer Nature (In Press)


Yilmaz O, Ojcius DM (2015) "A new frontier: oral microbes without borders." Microbes & Infection, Editorial, Jul;17(7):469-70.


Yilmaz O (2011) Chapter “Interactions of Porphyromonas gingivalis with Human Gingival Epithelium” in “Oral Microbial Communities: Genomic Inquiry and Interspecies Communication” Chapter 14, 207-219, Edited by Paul E Kolenbrander, American Society of Microbiology.