Research in our laboratory focuses on host-pathogen interactions. In particular, we study the pathogenesis of Chlamydia trachomatis, which is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted disease, and the leading cause of infectious blindness worldwide. Chlamydia is particularly difficult to study, partly due to its intracellular lifestyle. While non-intracellular bacteria can be naturally destroyed by the immune system, intracellular bacteria hide inside human cells to escape immune defenses. To achieve this, Chlamydia manipulates host cells to create an intracellular niche, the so-called inclusion, in which it can multiply. Chlamydia constitutes an outstanding model to study host-pathogen interaction as it manipulates a large number of cellular pathways to support its intracellular development. Among these pathways, Chlamydia drastically reorganizes the cytoskeleton to provide scaffolds for its inclusion. Additionally, Chlamydia co-opts cellular vesicular trafficking to acquire lipids and nutrients. Finally, this bacterium is particularly attractive to study as it also induces novel membrane fusion events using bacterial proteins.
Our laboratory uses a multidisciplinary approach to understand mechanisms at the molecular level. We combine crystallographic analysis with a variety of sophisticated biochemical and cellular functional assays to understand how chlamydial proteins interfere with their host partners. Additionally, we have now the resources to mutagenize Chlamydia to create knock-outs, knock-ins, and mutants. Ultimately this strategy will open new avenues of research for other intracellular bacteria including Salmonella and Mycobacterium, which also manipulate their host cells to their advantage.
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Philadelphia, PA, 19107