Photo of Stuart A. HillStuart A. Hill

associate professor


Pathogenic microbiology


Electron Micrograph Image

Electron Micrograph Image

Prokaryotic recombination, especially as applied to the molecular genetics of Neisseria gonorrhoeae. 

At NIU my laboratory is continuing my studies in Neisseria genetic recombination with emphasis on pilin antigenic variation. 

Gonorrhea is the second most prevalent disease in the US with billions of dollars spent annually on treatment, and development of an effective vaccine is highly desirable. 

Unfortunately, the gonococcus undergoes antigenic variation in which several surface components change their (antigenic) structure. One of these antigens that "changes its spots" is the pilin polypeptide - a major component of the pilus which is an absolute requirement for anchoring the organism to the genital tract epithelium during infection. By studying the genetic recombinant mechanisms involved in pilin antigenic variation, we are attempting to identify mechanisms that can then therapeutically be used to interfere with the infectious process.

Representative Publications

Wachter, J and Hill, S. Positive Selection Pressure Drives Variation on the Surface-Exposed Variable Proteins of the Pathogenic Neisseria  PLoS One. 2016 Aug 17;11(8):e0161348. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0161348. eCollection 2016

Masters, T. L., Wachter, J and Hill, S. Loop Structures in the 5' Untranslated Region and Antisense RNA Mediate pilE Gene Expression in Neisseria gonorrhoeae.  (2016) In Press: Microbiology. 

Hill, SA, Masters, TL and Wachter, J. (2016) Gonorrhea: An evolving disease of the new Millennium. Microbial Cell Microbial Cell 3(9) : 371-389.

Wachter, J. and Hill, S. A. (2015) In silico analysis of a novel plasmid from the coral pathogen Vibrio coralliilyticus reveals two potential "ecological islands".  Microorganisms  4(1), 3; doi:10.3390/microorganisms.4010003.

Masters TL,  Wachter S, Wachter J and Hill SA  (2015)  H-NS suppresses pilE intragenic transcription and antigenic variation in Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Microbiology  In press.

Wachter, J., Masters, TL, Wachter, S., Mason, J. and Hill, SA (2015) pilS loci in Neisseria gonorrhoeae are transcriptionally active. Microbiology 161:1124-1135.

Wachter J and Hill, SA (2015) Small transcriptome analysis indicates that the enzyme RppH influences both the quality and quantity of sRNAs in Neisseria gonorrhoeae.  FEMS Micro Letts 362 (4): 1-7.

Hill, SA and Wachter, J (2014) Impact of sequence non-identities on recombination within the pil system of Neisseria gonorrhoeae.  Open Journal of Genetics 4: 227-238.

Davies JK, Harrison PF, Lin Y-H, Bartley S, Khoo CA, Seemann T, Ryan CS, Kahler CM and Hill SA (2014) The Use of High-Throughput DNA Sequencing in the Investigation of Antigenic Variation: Application to Neisseria Species. PLoS ONE 9(1): e86704. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086704

Hill, S. A.  Stress responses in the pathogenic Neisseria: overlapping regulons and sRNA regulation. pp.115-132.  In:  Advances in Molecular and Cellular Microbiology. S. Kidd, ed.  CABI Press, 2011. 

Metruccio, M. M. E., Pigozzi, E., Roncarati, D., Scorza, F. B., Norais, N., Hill, S. A.,  Scarlato, V., and Delany, I. A novel phase variation mechanism in the meningococcus driven by a ligand-responsive repressor and differential spacing of distal promoter elements. PLoS Pathog 5:e1000710, 2009

Hill, S. A. and Davies J. K. (2009) Pilin gene variation in Neisseria gonorrhoeae: reassessing the old paradigms. FEMS Micro Rev 33: 521-530.

Mellin, JR and Hill, S. 2008. Gene Expression Strategies of the Pathogenic Neisseria. In: Neisseria- Molecular Mechanisms of Pathogenesis C. Genco and L. Wetzler, eds. Horizon Scientific Press, Norwich, UK.

Hill, S. A., Woodward, T., Reger, A., Baker, R., and Dinse, T. Role for the RecBCD recombination pathway for pilE gene variation in repair proficient Neisseria gonorrhoeae. J. Bacteriol. 189: 7983-7990, 2007.

Lee, E. H., Hill, S. A., Napier, R., and Shafer, W. M. Integration Host Factor is required for FarR repression of the farAB-encoded efflux pump of Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Mol. Microbiol 60: 1381-1400, 2006.

Fisher, S. D., Reger, A.D., Baum, A., and Hill, S. A. RelA alone appears essential for (p)ppGpp production when  Neisseria gonorrhoeae encounters nutritional stress.  FEMS 248: 1-8, 2005.

Martin, P., Makepeace, K., Hill, S. A., Hood, D. W., and Moxon, E. R. Microsatellite instability regulates transcription factor binding and gene expression. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 102:3800-3804, 2005

Hill, S. A. Emerging Infectious Disease 2005 (Ed. M. Palladino). Benjamin Cummings

Roquette-Loughlin, C., Balthazar, J. T., Hill, S. A., and Shafer, W. M. Modulation of the mtrCDE-encoded efflux pump gene complex of Neisseria meningitidis due to a Correia Element insertion sequence. Mol Microbiol 54:731-41, 2004

Meyer, T. F., and Hill, S. A. 2003. Genetic variation in the pathogenic Neisseria spp. pp. 142-164 In: Antigenic variation (Eds. A. Craig and A. Scherf). Academic press.

Hill, S. A., Samuels, D. S., Nielsen, C., Knight, S. W., Pagotto, F. and Dillon, J. R: Integration host factor interactions with Neisseria gene sequences: correlation between predicted binding sites and in vitro binding of Neisseria-derived IHF protein. Mol. Cell Probes 16: 153-158, 2002.

Hill, S. A., and Grant, C. C. R.: Recombinational-error and deletion formation in Neisseria gonorrhoeae: a role for RecJ in the production of pilEL deletions. Mol. Gen. Genom. 266: 962-972, 2002.

Hill, S. A. Neisseria gonorrhoeae recJ mutants show defects in recombinational-repair of alkylated bases and UV-induced pyrimidine dimers. Mol. Gen. Genet. 264: 268-275, 2000.

Hill, S. A. (2000) Opa-expression correlates with elevated transformation rates in Neisseria gonorrhoeae. J. Bacteriol. 182: 171-178.

Hill, S. A. (1999) Cell to cell transmission of donor DNA overcomes differential incorporation of homologous and non-homologous markers in Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Gene 240: 175-182.

Chaussee, M.S., Wilson, J. and Hill, S. A. (1999) Characterization of the recD gene of Neisseria gonorrhoeae MS11 and the effect of recD inactivation on pilin variation and DNA transformation. Microbiology. 145: 389-400. 

Chaussee, M. S., and Hill, S. A. (1998) Formation of single-stranded DNA during DNA transformation of Neisseria gonorrhoeae. J. Bacteriol. 180: 5117-5122. 

Hill, S. A., Belland, R. J., and Wilson, J. (1998) The ihf mRNA levels decline as Neisseria gonorrhoeae enters the stationary growth phase. Gene 215: 303-310.

Hill, S.A., D.S. Samuels, J.H. Carlson, J. Wilson, D. Hogan, L. Lubke and R.J. Belland. 1997. Integration host factor is a transcription cofactor of pilE in Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Mol. Microbiol. 23:649-656. 

Hill, S.A., M.M. Stahl and F.W. Stahl. 1997. Single-chain DNA intermediates in phage lambdas Red recombination pathway. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 94:2951-2956. 

Carlson, J.H., and Hill, S.A. 1997. Molecular characterization of Thymidylate Synthase in Neisseria gonorrhoeae. FEMS Micro. Letts. 151:225-23.

Curriculm Vitae


Post Doc
Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID
Institute of Molecular Biology
University of Oregon

Ph.D., 1987, University of Montana 

M.S., 1984, University of Montana

B.S., 1977, University of St. Andrews, Scotland

Fields of Interest: Plant molecular evolution and systematics; Comparative chloroplast genome analysis; Plant conservation and biodiversity; and Agrostology.


Stuart HIll

(815) 753-7943 
Offie: MO 325A, Lab: MO 407
Dept. of Biological Sciences
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115